Beijing (AP) – A Chinese spacecraft woke up to the moon on Thursday night from a load of rocky rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.
Chang5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon, and the first to land it again, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions to Beijing’s space program, including the orbit of Mars and the rover.
Chang ‘5 touched the sea of storms near the moon on Tuesday. Its mission: to collect about 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of lunar rocks and return them to Earth, the Soviet spacecraft first made samples in the 1970s. Earlier, American Apollo astronauts had recovered hundreds of pounds of lunar rocks.
The landing site is near a formation called Mons Rumker and may contain billions of years of smaller rocks than those previously recovered.
According to the China National Space Administration, the Ascent vehicle was taken off the moon after 11 pm Beijing time (1500 GMT) on Thursday night and due to meeting with a return vehicle in the moon orbit, the sample was then transferred to a capsule. Moon rocks and debris were sealed inside a special canister to avoid contamination.
It was not clear when the linkup would occur. After the transfer, the Ascent module will be ejected and the capsule will orbit the lunar for about a week, waiting for the optimal time to return to Earth.
Chinese officials have said that the sample capsule is due to land on Earth in the middle of the month. Touchdowns are planned for the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where Chinese astronauts make their return to the Shenzhou spacecraft.
The Chang ‘5’S lander, which remained on the moon, was capable of filtering samples from the surface and drilling 2 meters (about 6 feet).
While obtaining samples it had a major function, the lander was also equipped to apply large-scale photographs in the field, map positions along the surface inside the ground, and analyze lunar soil for radar and minerals.
Just before unloading the vehicle before climbing it, Lander revealed what the space administration had called the first free-standing Chinese flag on the moon. The agency posted an image – apparently taken from the lander – as the ascending vehicle fired its engine.
Chang 5 has one day revived talk of sending astronauts from China to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.
China started its first temporary orbital laboratory in 2011 and the second in 2016. Plans for a permanent space station after 2022 will likely be serviced by reusable space aircraft.
While China is expanding cooperation with the European Space Agency and others, negotiations with NASA are severely limited by US concerns over the secret nature and close military links to the Chinese program.