China plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon this week to bring back lunar rocks. The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation. Previously. in the Apollo programme, which first put men on the moon, the United States was bringing back 382 kg (842 pounds) of rocks and soil. The Soviet Union also prelevated soil from the moon. China’s probe will attempt to collect 2 kg (4 1/2 pounds) of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.
The Chang’e-5 mission may help answer questions such as how long the moon remained volcanically active in its interior and when its magnetic field dissipated. For this mission, China will use an orbiting module and one lander which will drill into the ground. The samples will be transferred to a return capsule that will return them to Earth. China also plans to retrieve samples from Mars by 2030.