(Beijing) A big leap for the Chinese space program: the probe Chang’e 5 landed “successfully” on the Moon on Tuesday, a crucial mission to send astronauts to the lunar star by 2030.
This mission is the next step in the Chinese space program, which struck a big blow in early 2019 by landing a machine on the far side of the Moon, a world first.
Named after a moon goddess according to Chinese mythology, the probe Chang’e 5 had left Earth last Tuesday.
The mission should make it possible to collect around 2 kg of moon rocks, in particular by digging the ground up to two meters deep.
These samples will be taken from an area never explored, the Ocean of Storms (in Latin, Oceanus Procellarum), a vast lava plain, according to the review. Nature. They should make it possible to add additional pieces to the great puzzle of the history of the Moon.
The return of the rocks to Earth should take place in early or mid-December.
The probe Chang’e 5 “landed successfully late Tuesday on the far side of the moon,” the official China New news agency reported.
For its part, public television CCTV broadcast a short sequence showing the 8.2-ton space module landing on lunar soil. Mission officials applauded in front of control screens.
The module Chang’e 5 is composed of four parts: an orbiter (which will remain in lunar orbit), a lander (which will land on the moon), a ascent module (from the ground to the lunar orbit) and a return capsule (to the Earth).
This mission is the first attempt to bring back moon rocks since the uninhabited Luna 24 mission, successfully carried out by the former USSR in 1976.
But unlike the Soviet program, where the probe made the Moon-Earth path directly after collecting samples, China will use a much more arduous method.
The rocks will first be placed in the ascent module (which will have to regain lunar orbit) before being transferred to the capsule back to Earth.
The United States had also brought back samples during the manned mission Apollo 17 (1972), but these had been collected directly by the astronauts.
“Rabbits” in Space
This ambitious operation will also allow the Asian giant to test new technologies, crucial in order to send astronauts to the lunar star by 2030.
This is not the first time that China has launched a device towards the lunar star as part of the program Exchange.
She has already landed two small remote-controlled robots (the “Jade Rabbits”) in 2013 and 2019.
The launch of Chang’e 5 was initially planned for 2017. But the failure in the same year of a rocket launch Long Walk 5, essential to the propulsion of the probe, had led to its postponement.
China is investing billions of euros in its space program, in order to catch up with Europe, Russia and the United States.
She sent her first astronaut to space in 2003.
The Asian giant has also just completed in June the constellation of its navigation system Beidou, rival of the American GPS. He also plans to assemble a large space station by 2022.