The space capsule with lunar rocks begins its journey back to Earth

A Chinese space capsule that brought back the first lunar rocks in more than four decades began its three-day return to Earth on Sunday, December 13.

According to a AP According to the report, the Chang’e 5 lunar probe, which had been orbiting the moon for about a week, fired four engines for about 22 minutes to exit the moon’s orbit, the China National Space Administration said in a post. on social media.

The spacecraft’s lander landed on the moon earlier this month near a formation called Mons Rumker, an area believed to have been the site of ancient volcanic activity. He collected about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of samples.

The return capsule is expected to land in northern China in the Inner Mongolia region after separating from the rest of the spacecraft and floating on a parachute. The material would be the first to return from the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976. Luna 24, the last Soviet lunar probe, had delivered approximately six ounces (more than 170 grams) of soil.

The rocks and other debris were obtained both by drilling into the lunar crust and by extracting directly from the surface. They may be billions of years younger than those brought in by previous missions from the US and the Soviet Union, possibly offering insight into the history of the moon and that of other bodies in the solar system, the AP aggregate report.

China has established laboratories to analyze the samples by age and composition and is also expected to share some of them with other countries, as it did with the hundreds of kilograms (pounds) brought by the United States and the former Soviet Union.

China’s space program has a series of ambitious missions underway, including a probe en route to Mars. The Chang’e lunar program, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, has been operating the Chang’e 4 probe on the least explored side of the moon for the past two years.

Future plans call for returning a human being to the moon and perhaps a permanent lunar base. China is also building a space station that will start operating from 2022.

The global race for astronauts to return to the lunar surface is intensifying. Earlier this month, the US space agency Nasa named 18 astronauts, half of them women, to train for the Artemis lunar landing program. The Artemis program, among other mission goals, aims to land the first woman on the moon by 2024.