China released video footage Wednesday showing the Arrival of his Chang’e-5 robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface. The camera races through a crater-strewn landscape on Tuesday and pauses briefly before a breathtaking fall begins. A moment later, a splash of moondust and a shadow from the lander signaled that the probe touchdown was a success.
“Very precise and exhilarating landing in the middle of the main geological unit in the wider Chang’e 5 candidate landing area,” said James W. Head III, professor of geology at Brown University, in an email. Dr. Head worked with Chinese scientists on where the mission should go Collect stones and earth to bring them back to earth.
The lander settled down as scheduled on Tuesday at 10:11 a.m. east coast time in a lunar region known as Mons Rümker. The spaceship sits amid a basalt lava plain about two billion years younger than the parts of the moon explored more than four decades ago by NASA’s Apollo astronauts and the Soviet Union’s Luna robots.
Within hours of arriving on the moon, Chang’e-5 set about drilling and scooping his lunar samples.
Pictures from Chang’e-5 show a desolate landscape with rolling hills. A lack of nearby craters indicates the youth of the area.
Scientists are curious how this region stayed melted for much longer than the rest of the moon. Examining these rocks in laboratories on Earth will also determine their exact ages and calibrate a method that planetary scientists use to determine the ages of the surfaces of planets, moons and other bodies throughout the solar system.
The lander has already completed its drilling and stored the sample. It continues to scoop up some earth around the spaceship. Once that is complete, the top of half of the lander will fly back into space as early as Thursday. This will be the start of a complex sequence to bring the rocks back to earth.
After arriving in lunar orbit over the weekend, Chang’e-5 split into two parts. While the lander headed toward the surface, the other half remained in orbit.