China is preparing to launch an unmanned spacecraft to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the moon in four decades.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the moon.
The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, aims to
shovel up lunar rocks and soil to help
scientists learn about the moon’s origins,
formation and volcanic activity on its surface.
The mission is set to take off from the
Wenchang Space Center in the southern
island province of Hainan, according to
official Xinhua news agency. No date was
The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed due to an engine failure in China’s Long March 5 launch rocket.
If successful, China will be only the third
country to have retrieved samples from the moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Chinese probe will collect two kilograms (4.5 pounds) of surface material in a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum or “Ocean of Storms” which consist of vast lava plain, according to the science of journal Nature.
The latest Chang’e-5 probe is among slew of ambitious targets set by Beijing, which include creating a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket from SpaceX can handle, moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.