Most of the samples of moon dust and rocks available for scientists to study on Earth date back to the Apollo era, when the last samples from the moon were returned in the 1970s. China wants to change that, and this week it will launch the Chang’e-5 probe that will collect material from the lunar surface and return it to Earth for study. The mission will test China’s ability to remotely capture samples in preparation for more complex missions in the future.
if China can take back the materials From the moon, it will become only the third country to complete this feat. The United States and the Soviet Union are the only two countries that have returned samples from the Moon. While only two countries have recovered samples from the moon, both Japan and India have launched moon missions.
The first man-made object to land on the moon was a spacecraft called Luna 2, sent by the Soviet Union, which collided with the moon in 1959. It was the first man-made object to reach another celestial body. The Apollo missions sent six flights between 1969 and 1972 to the moon and brought 842 pounds of rock and soil back from the moon.
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union sent three successful robotic missions to return samples to the moon, the last of which was called Luna 24 returning only six ounces of sample. China wants to collect about 4.5 pounds of moon samples from a previously unexplored area of the moon. China wants to collect samples from the lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, which means storm ocean.
All samples of the Apollo era came from less than half of the moon’s surface. The scientists called for new sample return missions to look into various critical areas where questions from previous exploration remain.