China's Moon probe on way back to Earth with lunar samples



The United States sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples.

"Domestic and overseas scientists will all have a chance to get the lunar samples to be brought back by Chang'e-5 for research", Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the Chinese National Space Agency, told Xinhua.

The moon samples have been sealed inside the spacecraft to ensure that they are kept in a vacuum and free from the influence of the external environment during its return to the Earth.

Last year, the China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon when Chang'e-4 touched down near the moon's south pole.

NASA said Thursday it has selected four companies, including Japanese startup Ispace Inc. and its subsidiary in Luxembourg, to collect samples from the Moon's surface as part of the US space agency's lunar exploration program.

From the rocks and debris, scientists hope to learn more about the moon, including its precise age, as well as increased knowledge about other bodies in our solar system.

It wasn't clear when the linkup would occur.

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The samples would then be transferred to a return capsule on board the orbiting module for delivery back to Earth.

While retrieving samples is its main task, the lander is also equipped with multiple payloads, including a landing camera, panorama camera, lunar regolith penetrating radar and lunar mineralogical spectrometer, to extensively photograph the area surrounding its landing site, map conditions below the surface and analyze the lunar soil for minerals and water content. Chang'e-5's return module is supposed to touch down around the middle of December on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where China's crewed Shenzhou spacecraft have made their returns.

The 1.2-billion-year-old volcanic plain where the Chang'e-5 lander scavenged for rock samples is considerably younger than the region of the moon visited by American and Soviet spacecraft. It was the third successful moon landing by a Chinese probe. The agency posted an image-apparently taken from the lander-of the ascend vehicle firing its engines as it took off. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, possibly to be serviced by a reusable space plane.

Chang'e 5 has revived talk of China one day sending astronauts to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.

China launched its first satellite in 1970, while human spaceflight took decades longer - with Yang Liwei becoming China's first "taikonaut" in 2003.

While China is boosting cooperation with the European Space Agency and others, interactions with NASA are severely limited by USA concerns over the secretive nature and close military links of the Chinese program.

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