China on Monday was making final preparations for a mission to bring back material from the moon’s surface in what would be a major advance for the country’s space program.
Chang’e 5 is China’s most ambitious lunar mission yet and marks the first time in four decades that any country has sought to bring rocks and debris from the moon to Earth. That could boost understanding of the moon, its age and resources, and generally of the solar system.
The four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft are expected be sent into space on Tuesday aboard a massive Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan, according to a NASA description of the mission.
The secretive Chinese National Space Administration has only said that a launch is scheduled for late November.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the mission is “indeed challenging” but China has already landed twice on the moon with its Chang’e 3 and Chang’e 4 missions, and showed with a 2014 Chang’e 5 test mission that it can navigate back to Earth, re-enter and land a capsule
“As a result of this, I’m pretty optimistic that China can pull this off,” he said. SOVEREIGNPH