China calls Long March-5 launch a success as robotic spacecraft heads to moon

China hailed its launch on Tuesday before dawn of a robotic spacecraft to bring back rocks from the moon in a country’s first attempt to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, a mission China hailed as a success. highlighting Chinese ambitions in space.

The Long March-5, China’s largest carrier rocket, took off at 4.30 a.m. Beijing time (8.30 p.m. GMT Monday) during a launch from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island , in southern China, carrying the Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) called the launch a success and said in a statement that the rocket flew for nearly 37 minutes before sending the spacecraft on its intended path.

The Chang`e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect lunar material to help scientists better understand the origins and formation of the moon. The mission will test China’s ability to acquire samples remotely from space, ahead of more complex missions.

State broadcaster CCTV, which broadcast the launch live, showed footage of CNSA personnel in blue uniforms clapping and clapping as they watched the spacecraft soar through the atmosphere, lighting up the night sky.

If the mission ends as planned, that would make China the only third country to have collected lunar samples, joining the United States and the Soviet Union.

Upon entering lunar orbit, the spacecraft is intended to deploy a pair of vehicles on the lunar surface: a lander and an ascender. The landing is expected to take place in about eight days, according to Pei Zhaoyu, spokesperson for the mission. The probe is expected to stay on the lunar surface for about two days, while the entire mission is expected to last about 23 days.

The plan is for the lander to pierce the lunar surface, with a robotic arm picking up soil and rocks. This material would be transferred to the ascending vehicle, which must transport it from the surface and then dock with a module in orbit.

The samples would then be transferred to a return capsule for the return trip to Earth, with a landing in the Inner Mongolia region of China.

“The biggest challenges … are the work of sampling on the lunar surface, takeoff from the lunar surface, the rendezvous and docking in the lunar orbit, as well as the high speed re-entry to Earth”, said Pei, also director. of the Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center.

“We can do samples through circumlunar exploration and moon landing, but it’s more intuitive to get samples to do scientific research – the method is more straightforward,” Pei added. “In addition, there will be more instruments and more methods to study them on Earth.”

SPACE STATION PLANS

China, which made the first far-side moon landing last year and launched a robotic probe to Mars in July this year, has other space goals in its sights. It aims to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

“From next year, we will carry out the launch mission of our national space station,” said Qu Yiguang, deputy commander of the Long March-5 carrier rocket.

Asked when China plans to send astronauts to the moon, Pei said any decision would be based on scientific needs, as well as technical and economic conditions, adding, “I think future activities will be based on lunar exploration should be carried out by a combination of man and machine. “

Matt Siegler, a researcher at the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute who is not part of the Chang`e-5 mission, said the Mons Rumker volcanic area of ​​the moon where the spacecraft is to land has 1 to 2 billion years.

“It’s very young for the moon – most of our samples are 3.5 billion years old or older,” Siegler said in an email, noting that the area and others like it represented “volcanism at an advanced stage “when the moon had sufficient internal heat. for such activity.

“We want to find out what’s special about these regions and why they’ve stayed warm longer than the rest of the moon,” Siegler added.

The United States, which currently plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, landed 12 astronauts there as part of its Apollo program in six flights from 1969 to 1972, and brought in 382 kg (842 pounds). of rocks and dirt.

The Soviet Union successfully deployed three robotic lunar sample return missions in the 1970s. The last, the Luna 24, collected about 170 grams (6 ounces) of samples in 1976 in an area called Mare Crisium.

The story was taken from a news agency


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