Chang’e-5 transfers the samples collected on the moon in the first maneuver carried out by a Chinese spacecraft.
China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft has successfully maneuvered remotely controlled encounter and docking in lunar orbit, according to China’s National Space Administration.
In the first maneuver ever undertaken by a Chinese spacecraft, the Chang’e-5 ascender on Sunday transferred samples collected on the moon to a return-orbiting combination in lunar orbit.
After that, the spacecraft separated from the ascender and will continue to orbit the moon waiting for the right moment to return to Earth. The plane is expected to land in mid-December somewhere in Inner Mongolia.
About 2kg (4.4 pounds) of lunar rock that will be returned to Earth is safely stored in the return capsule.
Researchers hope the first samples returned to Earth in 44 years will provide new information about volcanic activity on the moon.
It is the first time a maneuver has been successful in orbit without an astronaut present since the United States and the lunar landings of the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, when the two countries collected the last samples of the moon.
“The moon is a big place with different terrain. Returning samples from different areas helps us understand the formation and structure of the Moon, “Australian space expert Morris Jones told the DPA news agency.
“This mission also helps China in its long-term goal of landing astronauts on the Moon,” Jones added.
Chang’e 5, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, was launched in late November from the space port at Wenchang on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
The space module lands on the moon on Tuesday and begins collecting rock samples on Wednesday, leaving the moon the following day.
The lunar mission is another important step in China’s ambitious space program that also includes building its own space station in 2022 and sending an exploration mission to Jupiter in 2029.