China Target: The Moon

China Target: The Moon

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Beijing, Jan 21 (EFE)- Baptized in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese mythology, lives on the Moon, the Chang’e program of the Asian power took a giant step last December after landing on the moon and bringing back Moon rock samples are brought back to Earth on the promise that they will be shared with scientists in other countries.

The unmanned Chang’e 5 probe returned on December 17 with almost two kilograms of lunar samples, making China the third country to complete this feat after the United States and the former Soviet Union, the last to do so in 1976.
Chinese scientists explained this week at an event for the media that the material will help to know more about the satellite – for example, its exact age – and that for this they programmed the probe to drill in the north of Mons Rümker, a volcanic mound of the Oceanus Procellarum basin, on the visible side of the Moon.
This is an area that neither astronauts nor unmanned space missions have reached before.
The samples were collected in two different ways: on the surface of the Moon, thanks to a robotic arm, and underground, through a drill that drilled two meters into the satellite to obtain samples that could date from much earlier periods.
TWO HUNDRED GRAMS LESS THAN EXPECTED
Upon arrival, the capsule was flown to Beijing, where the container cylinder with the samples was removed.
However, the deputy director of the Center for Lunar Exploration and Space Program of the China National Space Administration (ANEC), Pei Zhaoyu, admitted at the aforementioned event that the probe brought 1,731 grams instead of the two kilos expected.
“We wanted the probe to excavate for 22 hours but we stopped after 12. The scientists estimated that the amount was sufficient given the density of the rocks,” he said, while acknowledging that “it may not be as high as we thought.”
He also noted that 80% of the samples will be used for research – the remaining 20% ​​will be stored – and that the country will share them “with scientists from around the world” for a period of up to six months, although they have not yet been received applications from abroad.
The success of the mission has also been a source of pride: the lunar lander also displayed the Chinese flag on the lunar surface, making China the second nation to do so.
“The Moon is the property of all mankind. As a power, China has a responsibility to explore it. Other countries achieved brilliant results in their programs, but we cannot stay at the expense of the rest,” the official said.
THE SPACE, SCENARIO OF CONFLICT AND COOPERATION
China’s progress in space has been viewed with suspicion by Washington, with whom Beijing has various disputes that escalated during the term of former President Donald Trump.
In 2019, a US commission assured that “the Chinese space dream” does not consist in exploring it but in “mastering it” and that it invests “huge amounts of money” to do so.
Pei did not clarify how much the last mission cost, saying only that China does not restrict cooperation with any country.
Not surprisingly, it is the US laws that limit its NASA space agency to collaborate directly with Beijing.
The official stressed that China has cooperated in the Chang’e 5 mission with institutions such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and, through it, with the Spanish monitoring station of Maspalomas (Canary Islands) operated by the National Institute of Aerospace Technique (INTA), which monitored the reentry of the probe.
He also collaborated with Argentina in the field of Telemetry, Monitoring and Command (TT&C), confirmed to Efe Sabino Vaca Narvaja, special representative for Commercial Promotion and Investments in China, after receiving a commemoration on behalf of the National Commission for Space Activities of Argentina (CONAE).
“An award is given to the Deep Space Station in Neuquén province that supported Chang’e 5, one of the most complex missions China has carried out so far,” he explained.
The diplomat hopes that Argentine scientists will be able to access the samples to study them -whether in mixed research teams or on their own- “and, hopefully, contribute to the knowledge and a greater understanding of the Moon.”
THE ‘JADE RABBIT’ CONTINUES ON THE HIDDEN SIDE OF THE MOON
The Chinese lunar exploration program began with the launch of a first orbital probe in 2007. Later, the Asian country made its first moon landing in 2013 and, in January 2019, it managed to land the Chang’e-4 on its far side.
And there it goes: on January 8 of this year, the ANEC announced that the explorer robot Yutu-2 (“jade rabbit,” named after the companion of the goddess Chang’e) resumed operations on its twenty-sixth day. lunar to move northwest toward impact craters with high reflectivity.
The rover will take panoramic photos and continue scientific explorations with its infrared imaging spectrometer, neutral atom detector and lunar radar.
The probes of the program were launched through the various series of the Long March rocket, which already successfully carried the first Chinese mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into space on July 23, and whose arrival on the red planet is scheduled for next may.
But the icing on the cake will be a manned mission to the Moon and the construction of a scientific base on the same satellite, although no date has yet been set for this.
The plan is for the Chang’e-6 to carry out a mission similar to that of the Chang’e-5, while the Chang’e-7 will explore the Antarctic topography of the Moon and the Chang’e-8 will develop “technologies key “to build the lunar station, which provides for scientific research and mining on the satellite’s surface.
Ben Oakley
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