China’s Chang’e-5 mission lands on Earth with Moon samples

China became the third country to bring precious samples from the moon to Earth.

China becomes only the third country in the world to bring back rock samples from the moon. On Thursday morning according to Beijing time – December 16 at 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT) – China’s Chang’e-5 successfully landed back on earth. The capsule landed at Siziwang Banner, which is located towards the north of China’s Inner Mongolia.

The rock samples collected by the Chinese belonged to an area on the moon which is previously unvisited. This mission is also the first of its kind since the 1970s. With only two other countries achieving the feat before, the Soviets managed the same mission in 1959, followed by the US in 1969.

The mission took off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan on November 24th. The probe’s landing was confirmed on the moon’s near side on a plain called Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms,” on December 1st. “This large dark spot can be considered a sign of damage through a massive cosmic impact that formed a sea of magma, according to NASA.

Chang’e-5 spacecraft collecting lunar samples on the moon
Chang’e-5 spacecraft collecting lunar samples on the moon. Image: China National Space Administration/Reuters

Scientists could use the samples from this region to study and understand the moon’s history. If successful, scientists could use the same approach to study other planets as well. 

China Chang'e 5 on earth.
China’s Chang’e 5 sample-return capsule is seen back on Earth. Image: China Lunar Exploration Project

After the capsule opens and the rocks are ready for analysis and study, China is willing to make some of the samples available to scientists from other countries in order to contribute to the research. With this success, China is already looking forward to future lunar plans.

Chang’e-5 is the lunar probe that was carried by the capsule that took off for the moon. The probe is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon. 

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During their respective missions, the Soviet’s Luna 24 mission managed to retrieve 170.1 grams of samples, while under Apollo programme the US managed to bring a total of 382 kg of rocks back to earth. It is still to be seen what volume of samples was brought home by Chang’e-5 mission although their plan according to some sources was to bring back sample weighing 2 kg at least.

Featured image: Chang’e 5 spacecraft landed on moon.

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