International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Chang’e 5 returns to Earth carrying moon rocks


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chang E probe

Mains level : Various lunar missions and their success

A Chinese lunar capsule has returned to Earth with the first fresh samples of rock and debris from the moon in more than 40 years.

Try this PYQ:

Q.What do you understand by the term Aitken basin:

(a) It is a desert in the southern Chile which is known to be the only location on earth where no rainfall takes place

(b) It is an impact crater on the far side of the Moon

(c) It is a Pacific coast basin, which is known to house large amounts of oil and gas

(d) It is a deep hyper saline anoxic basin where no aquatic animals are found

Chang’e-5 Probe

  • The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, aims to shovel up lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface.
  • The goal of the mission is to land in the Mons Rumker region of the moon, where it will operate for one lunar day, which is two weeks long.
  • It will collect 2 kg of surface material from a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum — or “Ocean of Storms” — which consist of vast lava plain.
  • The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed due to an engine failure in China’s Long March 5 launch rocket.

A big achievement

  • The successful mission was the latest breakthrough for China’s increasingly ambitious space programme that includes a robotic mission to Mars and plans for a permanent orbiting space station.
  • This return marked China’s third successful lunar landing but the only one to lift off again from the moon.
  • It also marked the first time scientists have obtained fresh samples of lunar rocks since the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 robot probe in 1976.

Significance of the mission

  • Rocks found on the Moon are older than any that have been found on Earth and therefore they are valuable in providing information about the Earth and the Moon’s shared history.
  • Lunar samples can help to unravel some important questions in lunar science and astronomy, including the Moon’s age, its formation, the similarities and differences between the Earth and the Moon’s geologic features.
  • For instance, the shape, size, arrangement and composition of individual grains and crystals in a rock can tell scientists about its history, while the radioactive clock can tell them the rock’s age.
  • Further, tiny cracks in rocks can tell them about the radiation history of the Sun in the last 100,000 years.

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