Experts, media hail China’s new lunar mission as "revolutionary"

BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — Experts and media worldwide have hailed China’s latest lunar mission as a “revolutionary” step forward for deepening humanity’s understanding of the lunar history.

China launched its Chang’e-5 lunar probe into space on Tuesday, kicking off the country’s first extraterrestrial sampling mission.

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-5 spacecraft, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of China’s southern island province of Hainan at 4:30 a.m. Beijing Time (2030 GMT) two days ago.

Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Its landing site will be in the northwest region of Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the Moon.

James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University, said that this area is of particular interest to scientists because it could confirm whether the Moon was still volcanically active some 1 billion to 2 billon years ago.

The CNSA said the craft plans to bring about 2 kg of lunar samples back to Earth.

The samples, when returned and analysed, will give us a “treasure trove of new information” that will “revolutionize our understanding of lunar history,” Head added.

Clive Neal, a geoscientist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the United States, said if successful, the mission “marks the beginning of a new era of robotic sample returns from the Moon that will undoubtedly change scientists’ understanding of the planetary body.”

Patrick Michel, planetary scientist at France’s National Center of Scientific Research’s Cote d’Azur Observatory, believed that an analysis of the lunar soil samples is like delving into the ancient memories of the solar system.

Every sample brought back to Earth, from whether the Moon or asteroids, helped us better understand the universe, Michel said.

On Tuesday, the European Space Agency tweeted its “best wishes for a successful mission” of China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

Describing the program as the “latest milestone in China’s space missions,” the Associated Press on Tuesday briefly looked back on China’s “cautious and incremental” space endeavors starting this century.

“China prides itself on arriving at this point (launch of Chang’e 5) largely through its own efforts,” it said.

“Pulling off the Chang’e-5 mission would be an impressive feat for any nation,” the press quoted Florida-based expert Stephen Clark of the publication Spaceflight Now as saying.

China’s Chang’e-5 probe has reignited global interest in lunar exploration, said Jessica Flahault, a planetary geologist at the French Center for Petrology and Geochemistry.

The Chang’e mission to bring back lunar samples is indeed a difficult one, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported. “If successful, China will become the third country to bring back a lunar sample,” the newspaper said.

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