Yesterday, China’s Chang’e-5 robotic lunar lander successfully set down on the lunar surface marking, for the first time in four decades, that humans have travelled to the moon to collect soil samples. Today, the Chang’e-5 reported back to Earth, transmitting a full-color recording of its descent.
The lander has already begun its sampling protocols by starting to bore into the surface and scooping up bits of lunar regolith. Come Thursday, once the samples are safely onboard the lander, the Chang’e-5 will attempt to escape the moon’s weak gravity well and rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft before handing off the materials for transport back to Earth. This marks the third time that China has set a lander down on the lunar surface. The Chang’e-3 arrived in 2013 with the Chang’e-4 following suit in 2019.