The Moon samples collected by the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission arrived on Earth

The Chang'e 5 mission's capsule with the Moon samples (Image courtesy CGTN)
The Chang’e 5 mission’s capsule with the Moon samples (Image courtesy CGTN)

It was night in China when the capsule carrying the Moon samples taken during the Chang’e-5 mission landed in the Siziwang Banner, meaning an autonomous county of Inner Mongolia. The lander with the return module landed on the Moon on December 1, spent about two days collecting samples, and the return module took off to transport the samples to orbit and start the voyage back to Earth. Recovery personnel found the capsule, which will be transported to a laboratory in Beijing, where operations will begin to open it without contaminating its contents.

The Chang’e 5 mission also included a small cargo of seeds from various plants, which was returned to Earth along with the Moon samples. The point of this experiment is to verify if they suffered damage, especially at the genetic level, due to exposure to space conditions. The seeds will be planted to check if the plants will grow normally.

The Chang’e 5 mission was important to the Chinese space program. It was necessary for various modules to work correctly, alone and together, to achieve success. Many maneuvers to separate the modules, land on the Moon, take off from the Moon, reunite the modules, return to Earth’s orbit, and eject the capsule had to be done perfectly in an automated way.

After ejecting the capsule with the Moon samples from an altitude of approximately 5,000 kilometers, the return module carried out more maneuvers to return to deep space. There it can begin a new mission, of which the Chinese authorities will provide information at their convenience.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated the complete success of the Chang’e 5 mission. No one had brought Moon samples back to Earth for over forty years, and China is now the third nation to have succeeded after the US and the then USSR. The Chang’e 6 mission, scheduled for 2023, aims to collect more Moon samples, this time in the South Pole area. More Moon missions will aim to prepare the crewed space program to establish a perennial Chinese presence on the Moon. In essence, China’s space plans continue to be developed with continuous progress.

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