China has successfully put another probe on the Moon. Its robotic Chang’e-5 mission touched down a short while ago with the aim of collecting samples of rock and dust to bring back to Earth. Unlike the launch of the mission a week ago, the landing was not covered live by Chinese TV channels. The US space agency congratulated China.
The 8.2-tonne Chang’e-5 spacecraft «stack» was launched from the Wenchang spaceport in southern China on 24 November . Chang’e-5’s success follows China’s two previous Moon landings – those of Chang’e-3 in 2013 and Chang’e-4 last year. A total of just under 400kg of rock and soil were retrieved by American Apollo astronauts and the Soviets’ robotic Luna programme – the vast majority of these materials coming back with the crewed missions. Chang’e-5 would offer a further data point.
Reports from China suggest the effort to retrieve surface samples may last no longer than a couple of days. This is where China’s astronauts also return to Earth. «Chang’e-5 is a very complex mission,» commented Dr James Carpenter, exploration science coordinator for human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency.