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China Readies an Historic Launch

It aims to bring back moon rocks for the first time in 40 years
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2020 2:38 PM CST

(Newser) – China is continuing to flex its space muscles. On Tuesday, it rolled a rocket into place that is scheduled to lift off for an ambitious mission to the moon early next week, reports the AP. The Long March-5 will carry the Chang'e 5, whose mission is to fetch rocks and other material from the moon—the first time humans will have done so in more than 40 years, per Nature. The mission calls for Chang'e 5's moon lander component to dig about 7 feet down from the surface and bring up what it finds. It's a complement to a 2019 mission in which China became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the moon.

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"To take it to the next level to return samples from the moon is a significant technological capability," says planetary geologist Carolyn van der Bogert of the University of Münster, Germany. China also has a mission to Mars currently underway. Analysis of the soon-to-be-retrieved moon rocks could answer questions about the moon's evolution and perhaps shed light on planets as well, per Nature. As for the earlier moon mission, China's rover continues to send back photos, and Space.com has the latest ones.

(Read more moon stories.)

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