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  • Scientists and technicians at the Change-5 landing site, China, Dec 17, 2020.

    Scientists and technicians at the Change-5 landing site, China, Dec 17, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @otinfo

Published 17 December 2020
Opinion

It drilled into the lunar surface for samples that record evolutionary events and grabbed material on the surface.

China's Change-5 probe touched down on Earth in the early hours of Thursday, bringing back the world's freshest lunar samples in over 40 years.

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It marks a conclusion of China's current three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting and landing and bringing back samples, which began in 2004.

The capsule will be airlifted to Beijing for opening, and the moon samples will be delivered to the research team for analysis and study, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

“China will make some samples available to scientists in other countries,” said Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center.

Change-5 was launched on Nov. 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in the Ocean of Storms on the near side of the moon on Dec. 1.

This site was chosen because it had a younger geological age than the sampling areas of the United States and the Soviet Union over 40 years ago, and had never been sampled.

Though lunar samples were brought back in U.S. and Soviet missions, scientists need more samples of different ages to piece together a complete history of the moon.

Change-5 drilled into the lunar surface for samples that record evolutionary events and grabbed material on the surface. Using modern analytical technologies, scientists will unravel the mysteries of volcanic activities and meteorite impacts over the past billion years. 

The Change-5 mission has accomplished several firsts for China, including the first moon sampling, the first liftoff from an extraterrestrial body, the first rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, and the first spacecraft carrying samples to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at high speed.

China is drawing up plans for future lunar exploration, including constructing a basic version of a scientific research station.

"We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the international lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments," Pei said.

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Pei Zhaoyu
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