NASA has not been to the Moon in decades, not since 1972, with Apollo 17. China, however, is picking up the slack. The BBC reported that China’s Chang’e-5 touched down on the lunar surface successfully today, December 1, 2020. The Chang’e-5 is an unmanned probe which will be collecting rock and soil samples and returning them to Earth.
NASA’s Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen congratulated the Chinese on their feat and expressed his hopes that the international scientific community, not just Chinese geophysicists, would be able to study the lunar samples. The last time Terran scientists gathered samples from the moon was 1976, when the former Soviet Union sent the robotic probe Luna 24.
The Chinese sent Chang’e-5 to Mons Rümker, a high volcanic complex in a nearside region known as Oceanus Procellarum. Their hope is to gather younger soil samples than American or Russian scientists have collected thus far. Space.com explained “Mons Rümker rocks formed just 1.2 billion years ago, whereas all of the samples collected by the Apollo astronauts are more than 3 billion years old.”
NASA hopes to return to the Moon with the Artemis program by 2024.
The Chinese lunar probe is expected to examine its surroundings and gather up surface materials over the next few days.
“It has a number of instruments to facilitate this, including a camera, spectrometer, radar, a scoop and a drill. The intention is to package about 2kg of “soil”, or regolith, to send up to an orbiting vehicle that can then transport the samples to Earth.”
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.