Chinese Mission Scooped up Nearly 4 Pounds of Moon Rock
China’s Chang’e 5 mission to the moon has managed to bring back nearly four pounds of lunar rock, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has confirmed. The lunar sample, which arrived on Earth this week, was reviewed by the Chinese space agency before it was handed over to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a ceremony on Saturday, December 19.
Chinese officials confirmed that they acquired 1,731 grams of lunar rock and dust in the Chang’e 5 mission. The sample is now on its way to the National Astronomical Observatories lunar sampling laboratory in Beijing.
“We took approximately 1,731 grams of samples from the moon,” said Deng Xiangjin, chief designer of China Aerospace Space and Technology Corporation, at a press conference translated by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. “The samples meet the requirements for the collected lunar sample, which means the complete success of the Chang’e 5 mission.”
The sample will be examined by researchers in China, and part of the sample is also expected to be shared with international researchers. This specimen is particularly valuable not only because it is a rare piece of the moon, but also because of the area in which it was collected.
Chang’e 5 landed in an area called Mons Rümker in the Oceanus Procellarum region, where the rocks are estimated to be considerably younger than in the other areas of the moon from which previous samples were taken. This means that by examining this new sample, scientists can see how the moon has evolved over time.
This is the first time China has brought back a sample from the moon, and along with the US and Russia, it is one of only three countries to have accomplished this feat. It is also the first time in more than 40 years that a lunar sample has been returned to Earth.
Interest in exploring the moon had lagged in the decades since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, however, interest in lunar exploration has picked up again, and China has sent a rover to the other side of the moon and its sample return mission. NASA also has designs on the moon that intend to return to human exploration of the moon as part of its Artemis program. That was spurred on this year by news that water was found on the lunar surface.