China has successfully landed a lunar probe on the surface of the moon, the country’s National Space Administration said Tuesday.
The robotic spacecraft, named Chang’e 5 after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, will spend two days on the moon collecting soil and rock samples, guided by mission control on the ground, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
The lander is expected to spend the next couple of days examining its surroundings and gathering up surface materials.
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.
If the operations on the moon and the return to Earth are successful, China will be only the third nation to bring lunar samples here.
NASA astronauts accomplished that feat during the Apollo moon landings, as did the Soviet Union’s Luna robotic landers, ending with Luna 24 in 1976.