Beijing, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- The Chinese probe Chang’e-5 has finished collecting and storing samples from the surface of the moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) reported Thursday.
“At 22:00 on December 2, after about 19 hours of lunar surface work (…) Chang’e-5 successfully completed the automatic sampling of the lunar surface, and they were packed and stored,” the space agency said in a statement.
The samples were collected in two different spots: on the surface of the Moon, using a robotic arm, and underground, drilling 2 meters down to obtain samples that could date from much earlier periods.
The collected material was stored in a vacuum-sealed container to ensure that it is “not affected by the external environment during the return to Earth,” said the text.
Chang’e-5 is expected to begin its return to Earth in the coming hours, and is scheduled to land in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia later this month.
On Tuesday, the probe successfully landed in the north of Mons Rümker, an elevated area in the Oceanus Procellarum, on the visible side of the Moon, an area not visited to date by astronauts or unmanned space missions.
If completed successfully, the mission would make China the third country capable of collecting lunar samples after the United States and the former Soviet Union previously did so in the 1970s.
Chang’e-5 was launched on Nov. 24 by the Long March-5 rocket, which on July 23 successfully carried China’s first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into space. It is expected to arrive on the Red Planet in May.
The Chang’e program (named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese mythology, lives on the moon) began with the launch of an orbital probe in 2007.
The Asian country made its first moon landing in 2013, and in January 2019 it managed to land the Chang’e-4 probe on its far side, where it remains – a milestone never achieved before in the history of lunar exploration.
The ultimate goal of the program is a manned mission to the moon and the construction of a science base, although no date has been set for this. EFE-EPA