China to launch probe to moon to bring back samples

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Beijing | China will send a probe to the moon on Tuesday morning to collect lunar rocks, the first such operation in more than 40 years, the Chinese space agency said on Monday.

The Long March 5 rocket that will propel the machine is in place on the launch pad of the Wenchang space launch center, on the tropical island of Hainan (south), according to official media.

“The launch will take place Tuesday between 4:00 am and 5:00 am” local time, said the Chinese Space Agency (CNSA) in a statement, adding that the refueling operations had started.

This Chang’e 5 mission is the next step in China’s ambitious space program, which struck a big blow in early 2019 by landing a machine on the far side of the Moon, a world first.

The probe that will be sent this time aims to collect dust and lunar rocks, in particular by digging the ground to a depth of two meters, then returning them to Earth.

These samples could then help scientists better understand the history of the Moon.

This is the first attempt to bring back moon rocks since the uninhabited Luna 24 mission, successfully carried out by the former USSR in 1976.

The Chinese probe is expected to land on the moon at the end of November. The return of the samples to Earth should take place around early or mid-December.

Chang’e is the name of a moon goddess in Chinese mythology.

This is not the first time that China has launched a device towards the Moon.

It has already landed two small remote-controlled robots (the “Jade Rabbits”) on the lunar soil during the Chang’e 3 (in 2013) and Chang’e 4 (started in 2018) missions. The Asian giant is investing billions of euros in its space program, in order to catch up with Europe, Russia and the United States.

He sent his first astronaut into space in 2003, hopes to assemble a large space station by 2022 and intends to send men to the Moon within ten years.

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