China’s space agency launched its Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission Monday on top of one of its Long March 5 rockets.
The mission consists of a lunar orbiter, lander, ascent probe and re-entry module. According to NASASpaceflight.com, landing is expected Nov. 29 on Mons Rumker, a region of the moon that has seen volcanic activity in its past more recently than other parts of our natural satellite. This could mean that the area is home to some of the youngest moon rocks around, providing a new window into its geology.
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The China National Space Administration says the Chang’e 5 lander will drill into the lunar surface “to collect underground rocks” and use a mechanical arm to scoop up samples of surface soil. The ascent probe will lift about 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of samples from the moon’s surface for transport back to Earth. The sample will land in Inner Mongolia on Dec. 15 where it will be collected for study.
The Soviets were the last to bring lunar dirt back home with the Luna 24 mission in 1976.
Chang’e 5 gets its name from the Chinese moon goddess and follows the Chang’e 4 mission, which sent a lander and rover to the far side of the moon, where they’ve been taking some interesting photos for almost two years now.
The spacecraft is expected to arrive at lunar orbit on Nov. 28. There is a live feed of the mission, which you can watch below.