China Lands a Probe on the Moon as It Pursues Space Ambitions
China on Tuesday said it landed a probe on the moon in its latest space endeavor and humanity’s first bid since the 1970s to return lunar samples to Earth.
The successful touchdown came a little more than a week after the unmanned Chang’e 5 probe lifted off from southern China on Nov. 24, state media said late China time Tuesday, quoting China’s National Space Administration. A round of applause broke out in the Beijing control room where the landing was monitored after an announcement the probe had “landed on the surface of the moon,” according to a broadcast on China Central Television.
Only the U.S. and the former Soviet Union have managed to return lunar samples, and not in almost 45 years. The plan is to retrieve around 4.4 pounds of rock samples and materials from just below the lunar surface. The moon is central to China’s fast-advancing scientific and strategic space ambitions.
The lander is expected to operate and depart from the moon within one lunar daytime, giving it about two weeks of Earth days. After collecting samples, it is scheduled to blast off the moon and connect with a lunar orbiter before returning to Earth midmonth.
China launched its first manned space flight in 2003 and in space has explored quantum communications, erected a large radio telescope and built a system of satellites to support a GPS-like navigation system.