Moon rocks in hand, China prepares for future moon missions

Moon rocks in hand, China prepares for future moon missions

BEIJING (AP) – After the successful return of moon rocks by its Chang’e 5 robotic probe, China is preparing for future missions that could pave the way for a possible lunar base to host human explorers, a senior official said on Thursday. responsible for the space program.

China’s next three lunar missions are well underway, as are programs to return samples from Mars and explore for asteroids and the planet Jupiter, said Wu Yanhua, deputy commander of the program. lunar exploration of China.

“Exploring the truth of the universe is only just beginning,” Wu said at a press conference hours after the Chang’e 5 capsule was dropped to a landing in Inner Mongolia carrying the first lunar samples to be brought to Earth in over 40. years.

Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, the Chang’e program made three landings there, including the less explored side. Chang’e 6, scheduled to launch in 2023, set to collect more samples from the lunar south pole, while its two successors are set to conduct detailed investigations and test the technologies needed to build a science base on the Moon .

No date has been given for Chang’e 7 and 8, or for a crewed mission to the moon that China says is underway, or for the construction of a moon base.

“China is ready to continue contributing to the world and improving human well-being through Chinese space solutions,” Wu said.

The Chang’e 5 probe capsule and its sample shipment were airlifted to the Beijing Space Program campus after landing just before 2 a.m. on Thursday.

The mission achieved firsts for China’s lunar exploration program by collecting samples, launching a vehicle from the moon’s surface, and docking it to the capsule to transfer the samples for their journey to Earth, China’s National Space Administration said in a statement released after the landing.

“As the most complex and technically revolutionary space mission in our country, Chang’e 5 has achieved multiple technical breakthroughs… and represents a historic achievement,” he said.

China in 2003 became the third country to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the Soviet Union and the United States and its space program ran on a stable and cautious trajectory, largely avoiding fatalities and launch failures. that tainted the United States. Soviet space race of the 1960s.

Wu said the latest flight involved collaboration with the European Space Agency, as well as Argentina, Namibia, Pakistan and other countries that China cooperates with to monitor and communicate with its spacecraft. In the future, China “will encourage more scientists from all over the world to participate to achieve more scientific results,” Wu said.

An exception remains the United States. Amid concerns about the secrecy of the Chinese space program and close military ties, US law prohibits cooperation between NASA and CNSA unless Congress gives its approval. This prevented China from participating in the International Space Station and helped Beijing launch a now-defunct experimental space station and formulate plans to complete a permanent orbiting outpost within the next two years.

Two of Chang’e 5’s four modules landed on the moon on December 1 and collected about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of samples by picking them up from the surface and drilling 2 meters (about 6 feet) into the lunar crust. The samples were placed in a sealed container which was returned to the return module by an ascent vehicle.

The newly collected rocks are believed to be billions of years younger than those obtained earlier by the United States …

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