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The Chang’e 5 mission has already separated from its rocket and is currently in orbit around the Moon. While Beijing has been typically vague on timeline details, the spacecraft looks set to touchdown on the Moon this afternoon (Tuesday, December 1).
The Long March-5 reached the Moon just two days after launch on November 23.
Following several days in orbit around the Moon, Chang’e 5 separated from the rocket, where it began its own orbit.
The deployment of Chang’e 5 from the rocket shows that China is looking to land at the peak of Mons Rümker, a mountain on the lunar surface.
Officials from China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) told media outlet Xinhua: “The spacecraft is performing well and communication with ground control is normal.”
According to Ars Technica which cited unnamed sources, the probe will begin its descent at 14.48GMT and will touch down at 15.15GMT.
Chang’e 5 will then drill two metres beneath the surface to collect soils samples up to two kilograms of soil samples.
These samples will then be returned to Earth in the coming weeks, giving scientists the opportunity to study lunar soils for the first time since the 1970s when the US and the then Soviet Union returned samples.
If Chang’e-5 is successful, China will become only the third country to have retrieved lunar rock, following in the footsteps of the US and the USSR.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said: “This is currently one of our country’s most complicated and multifaceted space missions.”
China is increasingly becoming a major player in the space industry.
Earlier this year, the country launched its Tianwen-1, which translates to ‘the quest for heavenly truth’, mission to Mars, which is currently en-route.
China made history last year when its Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover becomes the first to explore of the Moon’s far side.
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But the country’s extraterrestrial ambitions will not end there.
China will begin work on a moon-base within the next decade to ready for future manned missions to the Red Planet.
Following the launch on November 23, state media swiftly announced how the “perfect” Long March-5 launch meant China had finally achieved the rank of elite “space superpower”.
An editorial by the state-run People’s Daily wrote: “The world has not seen any new lunar samples for more than four decades.
“And now it’s high time China ended the lull in mankind’s lunar exploration and research, to not only leave China’s stamp on the Earth’s natural satellite but also bring part of it to Earth, with lunar rock, soil and regolith samples available for the worldwide scientific community to study.”
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