• Space: China's first footprints on the Moon: the robot 'Yutu 2' begins to explore its hidden side

  • Hidden face: a Chinese robot 'reconquers' the Moon

At the Wenchang Space Launch Center, on Hainan Island, south China, everything is set for a historic mission to the Moon: an unmanned spacecraft will take off at dawn on Tuesday (Monday night in Spain) to remove moon rocks and bring them back to Earth.

If the mission, called Chang'e-5, is successful, it will be the first time in more than 40 years that a country has recovered samples from the Moon.

According to the National Space Administration of China (CNSA), this mission of the lunar exploration program,

the most ambitious in the Asian giant to date, will

facilitate scientists' research on the origin and evolution of the Moon.

The Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket will be used to carry the robotic probe into space.

The launch will be between 4 and 5 hours on Tuesday in Beijing (between 9 and 10 on Monday in Spain), according to the official Xinhua news agency citing sources from the National Space Administration of China.

The Chang'e 5 has four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascendant, and a reentry module.

"Once the probe reaches lunar orbit, the components will separate into two parts. The orbiter and the reentry module will remain in orbit while the lander and the ascendant will descend towards the lunar surface," details a CNSA statement. .

Volcanic activity

The lander will dig for materials with its drill and robotic arm.

Then it will transfer the samples to the ascendant, which will lift off from the moon and dock with the service capsule.

The materials will then be transferred to the return capsule for the journey back to Earth.

The nace ship is scheduled to land in the


province of Inner Mongolia in early December


Chang'e-5's target is Mons Rümker,

a 70-kilometer-wide volcanic mound on the near side of the Moon, which may have erupted, according to the latest observations of the lunar surface, about 1.3 billion years ago. years.

"She is the youngest basalt mare on the Moon," Xiao Long, a planetary geoscientist at the China University of Geosciences, told Nature magazine.

Xiao refers to the dark lava that a robot sent by China, the Yutu-2, found in the middle of this year in the Aitken Basin, a huge crater on the far side of the Moon.

"The samples taken are important because they could help scientists understand volcanic activity on the moon and when volcanoes were last active. Moon rocks and soil could confirm that volcanoes were active billions of years. more recently than previously thought. If that's true, we will rewrite the history of the moon, "says Xiao.

Brett Denevi, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and chairman of a NASA lunar analysis group, says China has chosen a place where it can have a major scientific impact.

"Understanding the age of these samples and all the implications for the entire Solar System that result from that result will be a big step forward for planetary science," says Denevi.

The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed due to a failure in the launch rocket motor.

According to the CNSA, the task is to drill two meters below the surface of the moon and collect approximately two kilograms of rocks and other debris to carry it back to Earth.

The collection time will take place over the course of one lunar day, equivalent to around 14 Earth days, which will prevent electronic components from being damaged by extremely cold temperatures overnight.

Afterwards, when they reach Earth, the samples will be stored mainly at the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences of China, located in Beijing.

"The technical complexity of Chang'e 5, with its four components, makes it remarkable in many ways.

If successful, it could be a plan for the return of a sample from Mars or even a manned lunar mission,

" he tells the Associated Press. (AP) Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the US Naval War College.

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was the United States and the Soviet Union that were able to collect and analyze samples of the star.

If the Chang'e 5 mission succeeds, China will be the third nation in the world to bring back lunar samples, after the USSR's robotic probe returned to Earth in August 1976 with 170.1 grams of samples.

The first Chang'e probe, named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon that Beijing uses in its lunar missions, was launched in October 2007. Another orbiter, launched in 2010, focused on mapping and remote observations.

The Chang'e-3 lander mission in 2013 brought the first ground-penetrating radar to the lunar surface.

In 2019, Chang'e-4, another lander, was the first spacecraft to land on the opposite side of the Moon.

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