China on Tuesday embarked on an ambitious mission to bring rocks and debris back from the lunar surface for the first time in more than 40 years – an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and the solar system more generally .
Chang 5 – named for the Chinese moon goddess – is the country’s most adventurous lunar expedition yet. If it was successful, it would be a major advance for China’s space program, and some experts say it could bring samples from Mars or even lead a crew lunar mission.
Four modules of Chang’s 5 spacecraft were destroyed just after 3:30 pm, EST on Monday mounted a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.
The spacecraft after liftoff separated from the rocket’s first and second stages and slid into an Earth-Moon transfer orbit.
The launch was made live by national broadcaster CCTV which then switched to computer animation to show its progress in the outdoor space.
Typically, the secret administration had already confirmed that the launch would take place in late November. The spacecraft usually takes three days to reach the moon.
According to NASA, the mission’s major task is to drill 2 meters (about 7 feet) below the lunar surface and bring about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other debris back to Earth. This would provide the first opportunity for scientists to study newly acquired lunar material since the American and Russian missions of the 1960s and 1970s.
The time of Chang ‘5 lander on the moon is sure to be short and sweet. It can last only one lunar day, or about 14 Earth days, as it lacks radioisotope heating units to withstand the moon’s cold nights.
The lander will dig for materials with its drill and robotic arm and transfer them as an ascetic, lifting from the moon and dock with a service capsule. The material will then be transported back into the capsule to be transported back to Earth.
Chang’5’s technical complexity, with its four components, makes it “notable in many ways,” said Joan Johnson-Frese, a space specialist at the US Naval War College.
“China is showing itself capable of developing and successfully completing high-tech programs, with regional impact and potential for global partnerships,” he said.
In particular, the ability to collect samples from space is increasing in value, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He said that other countries are planning to get material from asteroids or even Mars.
While the mission is “really challenging,” McDowell said that China has already landed on the moon twice with its Chang’e3 and Chang’e4 missions, and featured with the 2014 Chang’e5 test mission That it can return to Earth. , Re-enter and land a capsule. All that is left is to show that he can collect samples and take off from the moon again.
“As a result, I am very optimistic that China can overcome this,” he said.
The mission is among China’s boldest since it first put a man into space in 2003, becoming only the third nation to do so after the US and Russia.
While the achievements of many of China’s spacecraft, including building several experimental space stations and operating a spacewalk, reproduce those of other countries from previous years, China National Space Administration is now moving into new territory.
Chang 4 – which made the first soft landing on the relatively unexplored far side of the moon nearly two years ago – is currently collecting full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, important information for any country sending astronauts to the moon Is planning
In July, China became one of three countries to begin a mission to Mars, in the case of China, an orbit and a rover that would search for water signs on the red planet. The CNSA says that the spacecraft Tianwen is due to arrive on Mars around February 1.
China has increasingly engaged with foreign countries on the mission, and the European Space Agency will provide critical ground station information for Chang5.
US law, although still prohibiting most cooperation with NASA, excludes China from partnering with the International Space Station. This has prompted China to start work on its own space station and launch its own programs, which has put it in a steady competition with Japan and India, marking new achievements in space among Asian countries Have sought to receive.
China’s space program has progressed cautiously in recent years with relatively few failures. The rocket being used for the current launch failed in the previous launch attempt, but has since been performed without a glitch, including launching Chang 4.
“China operates on a very large scale, developing building blocks for long-term use for a wide variety of missions,” Frase-Johnson said. He said China’s unilateral dictatorial system allows for “long-term political will that is often difficult in a democracy.”
Although the US has closely followed China’s successes, it is unlikely to expand cooperation with China in space amid political suspicion, accusations of a sharp military rivalry and Chinese piracy of technology, experts say.
“Changes in US policy regarding space cooperation are unlikely to receive much government attention in the near future,” Johnson-Frees said.