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China successfully lands space probe on the moon

China successfully lands space probe on the moon
© NASA

China’s state news agency Xinhua announced on Tuesday that the country had successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon.

The robotic spacecraft named Chang’e-5 will collect samples from the moon’s surface and is scheduled to return them to Earth some time in December. If successfully retrieved, these samples could prove to be highly valuable in aiding scientists to better estimate the age of geological surfaces on moons, asteroids and other planets The New York Times reports.

Chang’e-5 is the third unmanned Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon since 2013. Its predecessor Chang’e-4 was the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon when it was launched in 2019. Three more Chinese moon landings are planned for the next decade as China reportedly hopes to build a moon base by the 2030s.

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Upon reaching the moon, Chang’e-5 split into two pieces, with one successfully landing on the surface and the other going into orbit around the moon. According to the Times, the moon lander is not designed to withstand the temperatures and conditions of a lunar night, so it will need to collect all of its samples in one day on the moon, which lasts around 14 days on Earth.

Before the day ends on the moon, Chang’e-5 will rejoin with the piece currently in orbit. It is expected to land in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

If the operation goes as planned, China will be the third nation to successfully bring back lunar samples, following the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Last week NASA tweeted, "We hope China shares its data with the global scientific community to enhance our understanding of the Moon like our Apollo missions did & the Artemis program will."