Beijing, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- China’s spacecraft Chang’e 5 successfully landed on the Moon late Tuesday to collect samples in a procedure that is expected to take two days, before embarking on its return to Earth.
In a statement published on its website Wednesday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said that Chang’e 5 touched down on the Moon’s surface at 11:11 pm on Dec. 1 at the preselected landing area near 51.8 degrees west longitude and 43.1 degrees north latitude.
The CNSA explained that the probe reduced its flying speed at 10:57 pm when it was about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the moon’s surface.
During its descent, the spacecraft also took pictures of the landing site – a region to the north of Mons Ruemker, a mountain overlooking a vast lunar mare called Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, on the western edge of the moon’s near side, which has not been visited by any astronauts or unmanned space mission so far.
It then transmitted them to computers to identify possible hazards on the surface such as large rocks so the craft could maneuver to avoid them, according to CNSA.
“The lander-ascender suspended its descent when it was about 100 meters from the moon and hovered for a short time to carry out accurate detection of obstacles before continuing to descend at a slower, steady speed,” the Chinese agency added.
After landing, the Chang’e 5 “embarked on tasks such as using a technically advanced drill to retrieve rocks from 2 meters beneath the lunar surface and gathering soil from the surface with a mechanical arm.”
“We designed two methods for the spacecraft to collect samples. One is to sample the lunar surface, and the other is to drill underground. The two methods could increase the chance of getting more diverse samples,” Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-5 probe from the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
The spacecraft -which has an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a reentry capsule – aims to collect about two kilograms of samples.
Once the collection is complete, the ascender will lift off the Moon and dock in the reentry capsule, which is currently orbiting the satellite at an average altitude of about 200 km above the surface.
It will then transfer the lunar samples to the module and then separate from it.
Chang’e 5 is scheduled to land in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia in mid-December.
“Domestic and overseas scientists will all have a chance to get the lunar samples to be brought back by Chang’e-5 for research,” Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the CNSA said, according to Xinhua.
If the mission is successful, China will become the third country to collect samples from the Moon after the United States and the former Soviet Union did so in the 1970s.
Chang’e 5 was launched on Nov. 24 by a Long March-5 carrier rocket, which already successfully carried China’s first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into space on Jul. 23.
The Chang’e program (named in honor of a The program Chang’e (named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese mythology, lives on the moon) began with the launch of the first orbital probe in 2007.
China made its first lunar landing in 2013 and in January 2019, its Chang’e-4 probe made the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon – where it still remains – a major milestone in space exploration.
The final objective of the program is a manned mission to the Moon, although the date for this has not been set and some experts predict it for the year 2036. EFE-EPA