China shares first photos of its lunar samples

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China has just published the first photos of its lunar samples brought back by the Chang’e 5 mission last December. Some of these rocks will also soon be presented to the public in Beijing.

Last December, China completed its Chang’e 5 mission, the objective of which was to collect and bring back to Earth the first new lunar samples for nearly fifty years. In total, 1,731 kilograms of rocks could be collected from Oceanus Procellarum. It took several weeks, but the country finally shared the first photos of these samples, following a meeting between the Chinese president and representatives of the mission held on Monday.

These photographs (visible below) reveal, as you would expect, relatively thin and very dark materials, as well as basaltic glasses visibly created by lunar volcanism, according to a description published with the images.

Recall that China has declared itself open to sharing some of these rocks with scientists from around the world. Unlike samples previously reported from US and Soviet missions, these are younger, potentially giving us new insight into the history of the Moon.

Several lunar samples brought back by the Chang’e 5 mission. Credits: Andrew Jones / Twitter

An exhibition in Beijing

Note that some of this extraterrestrial material will also be on display in March as part of a public exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. These samples will be contained in an artificial crystal container, visible in the header photo.

This container was also not designed at random. Its height is in fact 38.44 centimeters, with reference to the average Earth-Moon distance of 384,400 km. Its width is also 22.89 centimeters, with reference to 22.89 Chang’e 5 Mission Travel Days in the space.

The samples are contained in a spherical void in the center of the crystal, representing the Moon, while a Chinese map sits below.

During this meeting, the Chinese leader therefore congratulated his teams, but also stressed the importance of looking to the future. The fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration program provides for a new sample return mission. Named Chang’e 6, it will be operated towards the lunar south pole in 2024.

Other spatial, non-lunar deadlines also await the country. The Tianwen-1 mission, in particular, which entered Martian orbit a few weeks ago, is preparing for its long-awaited landing on the red planet scheduled in three months. If successful, China will be only the second country to achieve this feat.

The Chinese National Space Administration is also preparing for the launch of the first module of its future space station, which will soon succeed the ISS.

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