China is looking to make history by becoming the first nation since 1976 to successfully launch a spacecraft to the moon with the intention of bringing samples of lunar rock back to earth.
The main aim of the mission is to retrieve lunar samples to help scientists and researchers better understand the moon’s surface along with advancing space exploration technology before the end of this year. The mission will also test China’s ability to successfully acquire lunar samples from a remote position ahead of more complex missions in the future.
The launch took place on Monday, 24 November from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern Chinese island of Hainan and saw a Long March-5 rocket carry the Chang’e-5 spacecraft into towards the moon. It is estimated that the journey will take around eight days to get to the moon.
“This is one thing that the Chinese space program is very good at. They set incremental targets and goals, and they build on what they’ve achieved and make more ambitious targets,” said Andrew Jones, a freelance reporter specializing in China’s space program to The Verge.
In order to actually get the samples, the Chang’e-5 spacecraft will deploy a lander and ascender vehicles once it enters the moon’s orbit. The lander vehicles will be used to collect samples before transferring them into the ascender vehicle, which will then dock with an orbiting module before making its way back to Earth. The entire mission is scheduled to take 23 days in total, according to Sky News.
If China is able to retrieve lunar samples and bring them back to Earth, it would make them only the third nation in history to do so, with the other two nations being the US and the Soviet Union.
Take a look at the live broadcast of the launch below