Moon Rocks To Be Scooped From Lunar Surface For First Time in Over 40 Years

by Jennifer Shea

A Chinese spaceship is heading to the Moon this month to gather the first moon rocks and dust brought back to Earth in more than 40 years.

The Chang’e-5 spaceship will spend 14 days, the equivalent of one lunar day, drilling and sampling the Moon, the Daily Mail reports. It will then go back to orbit and meet up with a returner spaceship. That spaceship will transport the samples back to Earth in early December.

Moon Trip Part of China’s Push Into Space

The Chang’e-5 is part of China’s renewed push into space exploration. By this March, China was launching a satellite mission nearly every other week, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Morning Post reports that the Chang’e-5 is supposed to bring back at least 4.4 pounds of lunar rock samples.

China reportedly believes space exploration is key to both its national security and its technological advancement. Competition between the U.S. and China in outer space has heated up in recent years, as the two world powers also vie for dominance by land and sea.

A Space Competition

China’s recent completion of the Beidou network of satellites created an alternative to the Global Positioning System (GPS), Bloomberg reported. And with trade tensions mounting between the two countries, technology companies fear a tech cold war may be brewing.

But the U.S. and China are not engaged in a “space race” as the U.S. and USSR were during the Cold War, Senior Research Fellow Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation said in 2016 testimony before Congress. Per Cheng, China is pursuing space exploitation, not space exploration.

Cheng added that there is a potential conflict with the U.S. over military uses of space. The Chinese believe the expansion of warfare requires greater situational awareness. And that requires extensive communications networks and arrays of networked sensors. Hence the Chinese expansion of satellites in outer space. 

Global competition aside, the new trove of moon rocks will be pretty cool.