On Tuesday, China launched Chang’e 5 to our moon. Not to put people there, but to pick up 2 kilos of lunar soil. What makes this trip so special?
The Chang’e 5 took off on a very specific mission to the moon on Tuesday night. In a few days, the lunar module will set foot on Mons Rümker. That is volcanic soil that we can theoretically see from Earth.
It is precisely the location of that landing that makes the mission of the Chinese special. In any case, it has been since 1976 that a rocket was used specifically to retrieve soil and stones from the surface of the moon.
But it’s not all about the principle. On the one hand, Chang’e 5 visits a part of the moon about which we have little information. On the other hand, the drill from China literally dives deeper than the American Apollo missions did.
The Chang’e 5 has a drill on board that must drill two meters deep into the lunar surface and take material from there too. This should give researchers a better picture of the history of the moon and how it has evolved over billions of years.
In addition, the spacecraft lands on terra incognita. Currently, scientists have 380 pounds of lunar soil to bend over. But it comes from more or less the same place. This mission goes so much further that it must in any case yield new insights.
Who gets the ground?
China has already promised that when it returns, the land will be available to science. It will probably first be distributed among Chinese scientists, but whether Western researchers will also receive a share is still unclear. Previous missions, largely overseen by NASA, had a clear application process for lunar soil. Now it remains to be seen whether the ground touches the Great Wall of China.
Watch the launch of the Chang’e 5 here:
It’s been a busy year in space. Earlier, China also launched its first Mars rover and the UAE also sent its first rover to the red planet. And that has been calculated without Elon Musk, who is responsible for a true traffic jam in space.