China is planning to bring back minerals from the moon for the first time since the 1970s after launching its most ambitious lunar mission, reported the Financial Times.
The Chang’e 5 mission began before dawn on Tuesday with the launch of the Long March 5, a rocket used for lifting heavy cargo into orbit, from the Wenchang launch centre on the southern island province of Hainan, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The rock and soil samples will allow Chinese scientists, who do not have access to minerals collected by Nasa, to gain a greater understanding of the moon’s history and composition.
Yin Zhihao, an academic at Beihang University in Beijing, said the mission marked the final step in the “orbit, land, and return” national strategy for lunar exploration. “Its success is vital to the subsequent establishment of the Chinese space station and the progress of the manned moon landing,” he said.