The Song-5 study, named after the ancient Chinese deity of the moon, seeks to gather material to help scientists understand more about the origin and formation of the moon. This task will test China’s ability to obtain samples remotely from space, prior to more complex missions.
If the mission is successful, it will make China the third country to recover lunar models, following the United States and the Soviet Union decades ago.
Since the Soviet Union crashed Luna 2 on the moon in 1959, a few countries, including Japan and India, have begun lunar missions since the first man-made object reached another sky.
Under the Apollo program, which first put humans on the moon, the United States landed 12 astronauts on more than six aircraft from 1969 to 1972, bringing back 382 kg (842 lb) of rocks and soil.
The Soviet Union sent back three successful robot models in the 1970s. Finally, Luna retrieved 24, 170.1 gram (6 ounce) specimens from the Murray Christian or “Sea of Crisis” in 1976.
China’s study, scheduled to begin in the coming days, will attempt to collect 2 kg (4 1/2 pounds) of samples from previously unseen territory in a large volcanic plain known as the Oceanic Procellarum or “Ocean of Storms”.
“The Apollo-Luna model zone of the Moon, although important to our understanding, was carried out in an area with less than half the lunar surface,” said James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University.
Subsequent data from orbital remote sensing travelers showed a wider variation in rock types, mineralogy and age than noted in the Apollo-Luna sample collection, he said.
“Lunar scientists have been arguing for robotic model return missions to these various important areas in order to address the remaining fundamental questions from previous studies,” Head said.
The Chang-5 mission may help answer questions such as how long the moon has been volcanically active in its interior and how its magnetic field – the key to protecting any life from the sun’s radiation – is scattering.
Once in the lunar orbit, the study aims to land a pair of vehicles on the surface: a lander will drill into the ground and transfer its soil and rock samples to a climber, which will lift and pass the dock through an orbital block.
If this is successful, the samples will be transferred back to the capsule and they will return to Earth.
Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robot base to conduct unmanned explorations in the South Pole.
It was created by the Chang-6 7 and 8 missions in the 2020s and is set to expand beyond the humans landing in the 2030s.
China plans to recover samples from Mars by 2030.
In July, China on its first independent voyage to Mars introduced unmanned aerial vehicle to another planet.