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China is planning for future missions following the successful return of lunar rocks by the Chang’e 5 robotic probe that could set the stage for a potential lunar base for human explorers.
Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of China’s lunar exploration program, said the next three lunar missions are on schedule, as are projects to return samples from Mars and explore asteroids and the planet Jupiter.
Mr. Wu spoke at a press conference held in Inner Mongolia just hours after the Chang’e-5 capsule landed, carrying the first lunar samples to Earth in over 40 years.
An exploration of the world’s reality has just started,”The exploration of the truth of the universe has just begun,”
Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, the Chang’e program has made three landings on the moon to date, one on its less-explored far side.
Chang’e 6 will collect further samples from the south pole of the moon, scheduled for launch in 2023, while its two successors will perform comprehensive surveys and test technologies needed to develop a research base on the moon.
For Chang’e 7 and 8, a manned mission to the moon that China says is at work, or for the construction of a lunar base, no dates were given.
Wu said, “China is willing to continue to contribute to the world and improve human welfare with Chinese space solutions,”
After landing shortly before 2 a.m., the Chang’e 5 probe capsule and its sample cargo were flown to the space program campus in Beijing. On Thursday.
The mission was a first for China’s lunar exploration program as, according to the China National Space Administration, it gathered samples, launched a rocket from the lunar surface and coupled it to the spacecraft to carry the samples for the return to Earth.
“As our country’s most complex and technically pioneering space mission, Chang’e 5 has achieved several technical breakthroughs … and represents a groundbreaking achievement,” it said.
Mr. Wu said the new flight was performed in collaboration with Argentina, Namibia, Pakistan and other countries, as well as the European Space Agency.
China will “encourage more scientists around the world to participate to achieve more scientific results in the future,” he said.
Two of the four modules of Chang’e 5 landed on Dec. 1 on the moon and obtained about 2 kg of samples by scooping them from the surface and digging about 6 feet into the crust of the moon.
The samples were stored in a sealed container which was returned by an ascent vehicle to the return module.
It is suspected that the newly collected rocks are billions of years younger than those previously sampled by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, and they provide new insights into the past of the solar system’s Moon and other bodies.
They come from a region of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum, near a place called Mons Rumker, called the Ocean of Storms, which is thought to have been volcanic in ancient times.
They will be analyzed for age and composition and exchanged with other nations, as with the 382 kg of lunar samples given by U.S. astronauts between 1969 and 1972.
Mr. Wu said whether U.S. researchers would have access to the samples is dependent on U.S. policy.
We sincerely pursue friendly cooperation based on equality, mutual benefit and peaceful application, regardless of whether they are U.S. government agencies, commercial enterprises, scientists or engineers,”Regardless of whether they are U.S. government departments, commercial enterprises, scientists or engineers, we sincerely seek friendly cooperation based on equality, mutual benefit and peaceful application,”