Daily US Times: China’s Chang’e-5 mission has touched the surface of the Earth with the cargo of rock and “soil” it picked up off the Moon.
A capsule carrying the Moon materials landed in Inner Mongolia shortly after 01:30 local time on Thursday.
It’s more than 40 years since the Soviet Luna missions and American Apollo brought their samples home.
The new materials should provide fresh insight on the geology and early history of Earth’s satellite.
For China, the successful mission of the Chang’e-5 venture will also be seen as another demonstration of the country’s increasing capability in space.
Recovery teams were quick to move in on the returned Chang’e-5 capsule. The capsule was first spotted by helicopters using infrared cameras and support staff following up in SUVs planted a Chinese flag in the snow-covered grassland next to the module.
The mission was launched at the end of November.
A probe comprising several elements was sent into orbit around the Moon. These elements then separated, with one half going down to the lunar surface.
The lander system of Chang’e-5 used a scoop and a drill to dig up samples. It’s not clear how much samples it collected, but possibly in the range of 2-4kg.
An ascent vehicle subsequently carried the Moon materials back into lunar orbit where they were transferred to an Earth-return module. This was shepherded home by a fourth element and released just before it had to make the fiery descent through Earth’s atmosphere.
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