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China's Chang'e-5 mission returns Moon samples

17 Dec 2020 10:41, Somoy English Desk
China's Chang'e-5 mission returns Moon samples
China's Chang'e-5 mission returns Moon samples

China's Chang'e-5 mission has returned to Earth with the cargo of rock and "soil" it picked up off the Moon.

A capsule carrying the materials landed in Inner Mongolia shortly after 01:30 local time on Thursday (17:30 GMT, Wednesday).

It's more than 40 years since the American Apollo and Soviet Luna missions brought their samples home, reports BBC.

The new specimens should provide fresh insight on the geology and early history of Earth's satellite.

For China, the successful completion of the Chang'e-5 venture will also be seen as another demonstration of the nation's increasing capability in space.

Recovery teams were quick to move in on the returned capsule. It was first spotted by helicopters using infrared cameras. Support staff following up in SUVs planted a Chinese flag in the snow-covered grassland next to the module.

The Chang'e-5 venture was launched at the end of November.

A probe comprising several elements was sent into orbit around the Moon. These elements then separated, with one half going down to the lunar surface.

The lander system used a scoop and a drill to dig up samples. It's not clear how much, but possibly in the range of 2-4kg.

An ascent vehicle subsequently carried the materials back into lunar orbit where they were transferred to an Earth-return module. This was shepherded home by a fourth element and released just before it had to make the fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere.

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