China's Chang'e-5 lunar probe launches from the Wenchang Space Center. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
A Chinese space robot probe on Wednesday began drilling on the surface of the Moon hours after landing.
Citing space officials said, the Chang'e 5 probe "successfully landed on the Moon in the pre-selected landing area.”
The one-sentence report gave no more details but according to the government announcement the probe launched to return lunar rocks to Earth landed on the Moon on Tuesday.
The probe adds to a string of increasingly ambitious missions by a Chinese space programme that aims eventually to land a human on the Moon.
This photo shows technical personnel monitoring the process during the Chang'e-5 lunar probe in Beijing. AFP
Beijing has poured billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon.
The Chang'e-5 spacecraft -- named for the mythical Chinese moon goddess -- touched down on the near side of the Moon on Tuesday, and is now gathering samples from the surface, the China National Space Administration said.
Chang'e-5's goal is to collect lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the Moon's origins, formation and volcanic activity.
If the return journey is successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.
An image taken by the camera attached to the Chang'e-5 spacecraft after its landing on the moon. AFP
This is the first such attempt since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976.
State media on Wednesday described the mission as "one of China's most complicated and challenging space missions so far".
The probe had finished drilling for samples by Wednesday morning and is now "gathering surface samples as planned", CNSA said.
The probe was launched from China's southern Hainan province last week and entered lunar orbit on Saturday after a 112-hour journey.
State broadcaster CCTV showed rows of scientists at mission control, wearing blue jackets emblazoned with Chinese flags, monitoring the probe then clapping after it successfully touched down.A huge screen at the front of the room displayed images sent by the probe of the grey lunar surface.
India will step up the international space race on Monday when it launches a low-cost mission to become only the fourth country to land a probe on the moon.
Fifty years after a mighty Saturn V rocket set off from Florida carrying the first humans to the Moon, a veteran of the Apollo 11 crew returned to the fabled launch pad Tuesday to commemorate the event that defined an era.
Beijing plans to send a manned mission to the moon and to build a research station there within the next decade, state media reported on Wednesday, citing a top space official.
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