China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe successfully carried out a remote-controlled engagement and docking maneuver in lunar orbit on Sunday, according to the China National Space Administration.
In the first such maneuver by a Chinese spacecraft, Chang’e-5’s ascendant transferred samples collected on the moon to the orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit.
Subsequently, the spacecraft separated from the ascendant and will continue to orbit the moon, waiting for the right moment to return to Earth. It is expected to land somewhere in Inner Mongolia in mid-December.
About two kilograms of lunar rock to be returned to Earth were safely stored in the return capsule.
The researchers hope that the samples, the first to be returned to Earth in 44 years, will provide new information about the moon’s volcanic activity.
This is the first time that an in-orbit docking maneuver has been successful without an astronaut present since the US and Soviet Union moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s, when the United States and the Soviet Union collected the last samples from the moon. .
“The Moon is a large place with differences in terrain. Returning samples from different areas helps us understand the formation and structure of the Moon, ”Australian space expert Morris Jones told dpa.
“This mission also helps China in its long-term goal of getting astronauts to the moon,” added Jones.
Chang’e 5, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, was launched in late November from the Wenchang spaceport on southern China’s Hainan Island.
The space module landed on the moon on Tuesday and began collecting rock samples on Wednesday, leaving the moon the next day.
The mission to the moon is another important step in China’s ambitious space program that also includes building its own space station by 2022 and sending an exploration mission to Jupiter by 2029.