Chang’e-5 transfers samples collected on the moon in first such maneuver to be performed by a Chinese spacecraft.
China Chang’e-5 lunar probe has successfully performed a remote-controlled rendezvous and docking maneuver in lunar orbit, according to the China National Space Administration.
In the first such maneuver carried out by a Chinese cosmopolitan, Chang’e-5’s ascendant on Sunday transferred samples collected on the moon to the orbiter-returner combination in moon.
Subsequently, the spacecraft separated from the ascent and will continue orbiting the moon awaiting the right moment to return to Earth. It is expected to land in mid-December somewhere in Inner Mongolia.
Approximately 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of moon-field, which was to be returned to the ground, was safely stowed in the return capsule.
Researchers hope that the samples, the first to be returned to Earth in 44 years, will provide new information about volcanic activity on the moon.
This is the first time a docking maneuver in orbit has been successful without an astronaut present since the United States and the former Soviet Union’s moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s, when the two countries collected the last samples of the moon.
“The moon is a large place with differences in terrain. Returned samples from different areas helps us to understand the formation and structure of the moon,” Australian space expert Maurice Jones told DPA news agency.
“The mission also helps China in its long-term goal of landing astronauts on the moon,” Jones added.
Chang’e 5, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, was launched in late November from the spa resort in Wenchang on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
The space module landed on the moon on Tuesday and began collecting rock samples on Wednesday, leaving the moon the following day.
The lunar mission is another important step in China’s ambitious space program, which also includes building its own space station by 2022 and sending an exploration mission to Jupiter by 2029.