For the first time since the 1970s, a Chinese spacecraft has landed on the moon to bring lunar rocks back to Earth. Chang'e 5, an unmanned robotic probe is expected to work for about two days in a region to the north of Mons Ruemker. According to details shared by the China National Space Administration, Chang'e 5 had "successfully landed" at its designated site shortly after 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday after making a powered descent from its orbiter.
Launched on November 24 from the tropical southern island of Hainan by a Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket, the lander will will bring about 2 kilograms of lunar samples back to Earth in mid-December, 44 years after the last substances from the moon were returned to Earth. The sample will be lifted up into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the trip to Earth, setting down on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
Since it's landing China's space organisation has published images of the barren landing site. One image also shows the lander's shadow. According to the European Space Agency (ESA) website, the Mission is named after the Chinese Moon goddess, traditionally accompanied by a white or jade rabbit.
According to the ESA which is collaborating with the Chinese agency to monitor the mission, its Kourou station in French Guiana had tracked Chang’e-5 for several hours after it's launch. And in mid-December, as the spacecraft returns to Earth, "ESA will catch signals from the spacecraft using Maspalomas station, operated by the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aerospacial in Spain".
The spacecraft has four components-an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a reentry capsule. Chang'e 5 had split into two parts early on Monday morning, with the lander-ascender starting surface operations even as the orbiter-reentry capsule remains in lunar orbit. According to the China National Space Administration's official website, one the collection and packaging operations are completed, the two components will be reunited after a fashion.
"A 3,000-newton-thrust engine on the ascender will lift it to rendezvous and dock with the reentry module. It will transfer the lunar samples to the module and then separate from it," the website explains.