China is marking a historical feat in its aerospace ambitions as Chang’e-5 probe successfully docked on lunar orbit on Sunday morning. The probe is carrying samples from the lunar surface.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) said Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated, ambitious and challenging missions in Chinese aerospace history. It is the world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.
Chang’e takes its name after a mythical Chinese Moon goddess.
The probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on November 24. Its lander-ascender combination touched down on the ‘Ocean of Storms’ on the near side of the moon last December 1.
After collecting an sealing the samples, the ascender of Chang’e-5 took off from the lunar surface on December 3. It then docked with the orbiter on Sunday morning.
”The ascender of China’s Chang’e-5 probe successfully rendezvoused and docked with the orbit-returner combination in lunar orbit at 5:42 am (Beijing time),” said CNSA.
The orbit-returner is just now waiting for the right time to return to Earth.
China has always been vocal with its aerospace ambitions. The country is looking to catch up with the US and Russia’s achievements. The Chinese government has already poured billions into its military-run space program.
CNSA previously said that, “before liftoff, the Chinese flag was raised on the moon’s surface.”
Chang’e-5 probe is bringing about two kilograms of lunar samples.
Scientists hope that the samples from Chang’e-5 will help further determine the Moon’s origins and the volcanic activities on its surface.
China aims to lay a technological foundation for manned lunar missions, said Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of CNSA.
If the return journey is successful, China will become the third country to retrieve samples from the Moon. The US and the Soviet Union did so in 1960s and 1970s.