Beijing, November 23: China said on Monday that it will launch its first unmanned space mission on Tuesday to collect samples from the moon’s surface and return to earth, which its scientists say is one of the country’s most complicated and challenging space missions.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) said that the fuelling of the Long March-5 rocket, currently China’s largest launch vehicle, began on Monday ahead of the launch on early Tuesday.
The rocket, which will send the Chang’e-5 spacecraft to Earth-moon transfer orbit, is scheduled to be launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province in the early hours on Tuesday.
The mission is the country’s first attempt to launch a spacecraft to collect and return samples from the moon, the CNSA said.
The Chang’e-5 mission aims to conduct unmanned lunar sample collection and return to Earth, one of the country’s most complicated and challenging space missions, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It will contribute to the scientific studies in fields such as the formation and evolution of the moon, it said.
China’s lunar exploration program is named after the legendary Chang’e, the “Moon Lady,” who took a potion and floated into the sky, eventually landing on the moon, where she became a goddess accompanied by a jade rabbit.
A major space power, China launched its first Mars mission Tianwen-1′ on July 23 this year. The Mars spacecraft which included an orbiter, lander and rover is on its way to the red planet.
China launched its first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, in 2007 which orbited 200 km above the moon and mapped 3D images of the lunar surface followed by Chang’e-2 in 2010 which had sent high resolution photos of the moon’s surface.
Chang’e-3 was launched in 2013 which softly touched down on the Sinus Iridum 12 days later. Chang’e-3 included a lander and a moon rover called Yutu (Jade Rabbit).
China had launched an experimental spacecraft in 2014 to test technologies to be used on Chang’e-5.
The Chang’e-4 probe was launched in 2018. It made the first-ever soft landing on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon.
Chang’e-4, including a lander and a moon rover called Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, conducted low-frequency radio astronomical observation, terrain and landform survey, mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure detection, and neutron radiation and neutral atom measurement, according to Xinhua reports. (PTI)