China’s ambitious lunar mission Chang’e-5 has returned back to Earth with a cargo of rock and soil it picked up from the surface of the Moon.
The capsule carrying the materials landed in Inner Mongolia shortly after 01:30 local time on Thursday.
With this successful pick-up China became the first nation retrieve samples from Earth’s natural satellite since the 1970s.
The Chang’e-5 probe’s – named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the Moon – collection of new specimens that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation; basically insight on the geology and early history of Earth’s satellite.
The remote complex mission deployed a pair of vehicles to the surface – a lander will drill into the ground, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender that will lift off and dock with an orbiting module.
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For China, the successful completion of the Chang’e-5 venture will also be seen as another demonstration of the nation’s increasing capability in space.
The Chang’e-5 mission may also help answer questions such as how long the moon remained volcanically active in its interior and when its magnetic field – key to protecting any form of life from the sun’s radiation – dissipated.
Apart from collecting about 2 kilogram of dust from the Moon, the Chang’e-5 mission also hoisted the nation’s flag on the surface of the Moon.
Chang’e-6, 7 and 8 missions through the 2020s and expanded through the 2030s ahead of manned landings.
China plans to retrieve samples from Mars by 2030.