A Chinese probe carrying samples from the lunar surface has been successfully coupled to a spacecraft orbiting the moon, in another space unprecedented for the nation, state media reported.
Sunday’s maneuver was part of the ambitious Chang’e-5 mission – named after a mythical Chinese lunar goddess – to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades.
The cargo shell carrying moon rocks and soil took off from the surface on Thursday and docked with the orbiter on Sunday morning, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing China National Space Administration.
Xinhua said it was China’s first “meeting and docking in lunar orbit”.
Starting the charge capsule of the lunar surface on Thursday it was also the first: the first takeoff of a Chinese spaceship with an extraterrestrial body.
The capsule transferred the moon samples to the orbiter, which will separate and return to Earth, Xinhua said.
China it is looking to reach the US and Russia after taking decades to match its achievements, and has poured billions into its military space program.
Its space agency said earlier that “before takeoff, the chinese flag was raised on the moon’s surface ”.
Scientists hope the Chang’e-5 samples will help them learn more about the Moon’s origins and volcanic activity on its surface.
If the return trip is successful, China will become only the third country to obtain samples of the Moon, after the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.