With China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission, moon samples reach Earth for the first time in 44 years

Illustrated image of the Chang'e-5 Chinese Lunar Mission, which brought lunar samples to Earth for the first time in 44 years, having landed earlier today.  (Image: Space.com)

Illustrated image of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission which brought lunar samples to Earth for the first time in 44 years, having landed earlier today. (Image: Space.com)

The Chang’e-5 lunar mission landed successfully today and was the first time since Russia in 1976 that anyone has collected samples from the moon and brought them to Earth.

  • News18.com
  • Last updated: December 17, 2020, 05:28 AM

Shouvik Das

Rock and soil samples from the moon have landed successfully on Earth for the first time in over four decades. Chinese media company Xinhua reported today that the country’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission with lunar samples on board has successfully landed on Earth. This makes China only the third country to ever collect lunar samples, and also the first 44 years after Russia achieved this feat in its 1976 unmanned Luna 24 mission. The achievement dates back to the space race of the 1960s and 1970s, which led to unprecedented successes achieved by Russia and the US in space missions.

On November 24th, China fired four single unmanned spacecraft at the moon. The four included a landing module, an ascent module, an orbital module, and a re-entry module. On December 1st, the landing and ascent modules landed on the lunar surface and drilled into it to collect dust and stones and collected them in bins inside. The ascent module then took off from the moon to rejoin the two remaining modules orbiting the moon. During the return voyage, the lunar samples were transferred from the ascent module to the re-entry module, which then re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and landed in Mongolia earlier today.

The goal of collecting lunar surface material is reportedly to study a portion of the moon called “Oceanus Procellarum” which is believed to be much smoother than the rest of the lunar surface. Scientists believe the difference in terrain is related to volcanic activity on the lunar surface that occurred relatively recently – on a space-time scale. As a result, studying lunar samples from this region will help scientists better understand the lunar surface and learn more details about its interaction with the earth.

However, it is not yet clear how much lunar surface material Chang’e-5 successfully collected. Before the launch, China reportedly had targeted the collection of up to 4 kg of lunar rocks for extended experiments and studies. So far, only the US has managed to carry out a manned mission to the moon during the legendary Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972 to collect lunar rock samples.