China's spacecraft successfully brings home moon samples
China's Chang'e-5 probe successfully touched down on Earth in the early hours of Thursday, bringing home the first samples of the moon in over 40 years. The spacecraft landed in Siziwang Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, at 1:59 AM (local time), according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, declared the Chang'e-5 mission a success.
Return capsule landed smoothly
The return capsule of Chang'e-5 separated from the orbiter about 5,000 km above the Atlantic. It entered the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 120 km, and landed smoothly in the predetermined area. The capsule is set to be airlifted to Beijing for opening.
China's maiden attempt to bring moon samples
The mission marks a successful conclusion to China's current three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting, landing, and bringing back samples which began in 2004 for analysis and study by the research team. It is China's maiden attempt to retrieve material from an extra-terrestrial body. The Chang'e-5 lunar probe was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on November 24.
First attempt in 40 years to collect moon samples
It was the first attempt to bring the moon samples in over 40 years after the US sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples. In the Soviet Union's unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.
Spacecraft embodied four interactive components
The 8-tonne Chang'e-5 spacecraft had four independent but interactive components. This included one to stay in lunar orbit as a docking station, one to go down to the moon's surface and drill for samples, one to take the material back to the dock station and another to bring the samples back to Earth.
Samples will unravel the mysteries of volcanic activity
Chang'e-5 drilled into the lunar surface for samples that record evolutionary events and grabbed material on the surface. Using modern analytical technologies, scientists will be able to unravel the mysteries of volcanic activities and meteorite impacts over the past billion years. China will make some of the samples available to scientists in other countries.
Most challenging Aerospace mission of China
Chang'e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China's aerospace history as it touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on December 1, the report said. This site was chosen because it has a younger geological age than the sampling areas of the US and the Soviet Union.
Piecing together history of the moon
Though lunar samples were brought back in the US and Soviet missions, scientists need more samples of different ages to piece together a complete history of the moon. The new samples reportedly weighing about two kg will be of great scientific value, according to Chinese space scientists. The probe has collected material at different sites to ensure the diversity of the samples.
Orbiter-returner carried moon samples to earth
After the samples were sealed, the probe's ascender successfully took off from the moon and docked with the orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit. The samples were transferred to the returner, before the ascender separated from the orbiter-returner. To avoid becoming space junk, the ascender made a controlled descent back to the moon. Then the orbiter-returner carried the precious samples home.
'Foundation for future deep space exploration'
Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of CNSA, said, ''The Chang'e-5 mission has accomplished several firsts for China." This includes "the first moon sampling, the first liftoff from an extraterrestrial body, the first rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, and the first spacecraft carrying samples to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at high speed."
China's Mars probe 'Tianwen-1'
Meanwhile, China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 is currently more than 100 million km away from Earth and is functioning normally, the CNSA said on Tuesday. It will conduct several orbital corrections and will likely decelerate to enter the Mars orbit in mid-February next year.
India's successful 'Mission Mars'
The US, Russia, the European Union, and India have so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars. India became the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission, Mangalyaan, which entered the orbit of the red planet in 2014. India also became the first country to have entered the Martian orbit in its first attempt.