A Chinese probe carrying samples from the moon’s surface has successfully attached itself to a spacecraft orbiting the moon, in another space first for the nation, state media reported.
Sunday’s maneuver was part of the ambitious Chang-5 mission – named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess – to return the first lunar specimens in four decades.
The cargo capsule with lunar rocks and soil rose from the surface on Thursday and hung with the orbiter on Sunday morning, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing China’s National Space Administration.
Xinhua said it was the first “rendezvous in China to land in lunar orbit”.
The departure of the cargo capsule from the surface of the Moon on Thursday was also the first: the first lifting of a Chinese craft from an alien body.
The capsule transferred the lunar samples to the orbiter, which will split and return to Earth, Xinhua said.
China is seeking to align itself with the United States and Russia after decades of matching their achievements and pouring billions into its military space program.
Her space agency had previously said that “before the launch, the Chinese flag was raised on the surface of the moon.”
Scientists hope the Chang’e-5 samples will help them learn more about the Moon’s origins and volcanic activity on its surface.
If the return trip is successful, China will become only the third country to receive lunar specimens, after the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.