Following the successful return of the moon rocks by its Chang’e 5 robotic probe, China is preparing for future missions that could set the stage for a possible moon base that will host human explorers, a senior official said Thursday. space program.
China’s next three moon missions are on track, along with plans for returning samples from Mars and exploration of asteroids and the planet Jupiter, said Wu Yanhua, deputy chief commander of China’s lunar exploration program.
“The exploration of the truth of the universe is only just beginning,” Wu said in a press conference held hours after the Chang’e 5 capsule parachuted to a landing in Inner Mongolia, carrying the first lunar samples. to bring to Earth in over 40 years.
Named after the Chinese moon goddess, the Chang’e program made three landings there, even on the less explored side. Chang’e 6, scheduled to launch in 2023, will collect more samples from the lunar south pole, while its two successors will conduct detailed investigations and test the technologies needed to build a science base on the moon.
No dates have been given for Chang’e 7 and 8, or for a manned mission to the moon that China says is in the works, or for building a moon base.
“China is willing to continue contributing to the world and improving human well-being with Chinese space solutions,” Wu said.
The Chang’e 5 spacecraft and its cargo of samples were flown to the Beijing Space Program campus after landing just before 2am on Thursday.
The mission achieved first results for China’s lunar exploration program in collecting samples, launching a vehicle from the lunar surface, and anchoring the capsule to transfer the samples for their journey to Earth, the administration said. Chinese national spacecraft in a statement released after landing.
“As our nation’s most complex and technically revolutionary space mission, Chang’e 5 has achieved multiple technical breakthroughs … and represents a milestone,” he said.
China in 2003 became only the third country to send an astronaut into orbit alone after the Soviet Union and the United States and its space program proceeded on a steady and cautious path, largely avoiding casualties and failures. of the launches that ruined the US Soviet Space Race of the 1960s.
Wu said the latest flight saw collaboration with the European Space Agency, along with Argentina, Namibia, Pakistan, and other nations the Chinese partner with for monitoring and communication with his spacecraft. China in the future “will encourage more scientists around the world to participate to get more scientific results,” Wu said.
The United States remains an exception. Amid concerns about the secrecy of China’s space program and close military ties, US law prohibits cooperation between NASA and CNSA unless Congress gives its approval. This prevented China from taking part in the International Space Station and helped Beijing launch a now defunct experimental space station and formulate plans to complete a permanent orbiting outpost within the next two years.
Two of Chang’e 5’s four modules landed on the moon on December 1 and collected about 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) of samples by collecting them from the surface and drilling 2 meters (about 6 feet) into the lunar crust. The samples were deposited in a sealed container which was returned to the return form by a lift vehicle.
The newly collected rocks are believed to be billions of years younger than those previously obtained by the United States and the former Soviet Union, offering new insights into the history of the moon and other bodies in the solar system. They come from a part of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, near a site called Mons Rumker which was believed to be volcanic in ancient times.
As with the 382 kilograms (842 lbs) of lunar samples carried by US astronauts from 1969 to 1972, they will be analyzed for age and composition and should be shared with other countries.
The age of the champions will help fill a gap in knowledge of the moon’s history between about 1 billion and 3 billion years ago, Brad Jolliff, director of Washington University’s McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences in the city of St. Louis, wrote in an email. They can also provide clues to the availability of economically useful resources on the moon such as concentrated hydrogen and oxygen, Jolliff said.
“These champions will be a treasure!” Jolliff wrote. “Hats off to our Chinese colleagues for completing a very difficult mission; the science that will emerge from the analysis of the returned samples will be a legacy that will last for many, many years and hopefully involve the international community of scientists. “
Whether US researchers will have access to the samples depends on US policy, Wu said.
“Regardless of whether they are US government departments, business operations, scientists or engineers, we sincerely seek friendly cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and peaceful enforcement,” Wu said.