While NASA is building up to send humans back to the Moon, China is sending robots to the Moon for retrieval missions.
This week China launched its Chang’e 5 mission with a view to bringing back some dirt from the Moon. What makes this particular mission interesting is that the retrieval of this dirt will be done by robots.
The launch of Chang’e 5 took place this week with a Long March 5 rocket lifting 8.2 tons of equipment off of the Earth from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China.
That weight is made up of just four robots according to The Verge.
Of those robots one is responsible for harvesting solar energy needed to propel the mission to the Moon. Upon entering the Moon’s orbit a lander and an ascent vehicle will depart from the spacecraft for the Moon.
The lander will then, land and drill into the Moon’s surface to gather material. This material will then be passed to the ascent vehicle which will rendezvous with the rest of the spacecraft which is still orbiting the Moon.
At this stage the equipment will head back to Earth.
A return capsule will eventually break away from the spacecraft as it approaches Earth. This capsule will reportedly arrive at Earth at high speed and land in Mongolia.
This mission will last roughly 23 days according to National Geographic.
Chang’e 5 is expected to draw rock and soil samples from the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms region which is reportedly a plain of volcanic rock formed from magmatic activity in the past. The age of this rock is believed to be younger than other areas of the Moon. It’s expected that samples from this region will help give scientists and researchers valuable insight into the history of the Moon.
Chang’e 5 has many points of failure but if it manages to get everything right and bring samples back to Earth, then China might be gearing up to send humans back to the Moon before the likes of NASA can.
It looks like we’ve found ourselves in yet another space race and we’re going to enjoy the launching of rockets and the prospect of spacefaring while we can.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]