For the first time in more than 40 years, China launched an ambitious mission to obtain rocks and debris from the surface of the moon. The new change is the current endeavor that may more widely boost human understanding of the moon and the solar system. 

Chang'e 5 is the country's most audacious lunar project yet, credited after the Chinese moon goddess. It will be a significant development for China's space program if successful, and some analysts claim it might pave the way for samples from Mars or even a crewed lunar spacecraft to be brought back.

The four modules of the Chang'e 5 spacecraft blasted off 4:30 a.m. local time Tuesday (3:30 p.m. EST Monday) from the Wenchang launch center along the southern island province coast of Hainan atop a huge Long March-5Y rocket.

The spacecraft detached from the first and second stages of the rocket minutes after its liftoff and slipped into the Earth-Moon transit orbit. Around an hour later, to establish its independent power supply, Chang'e 5 opened its solar panels.

It normally takes three days for a spaceship to hit the moon. China National Space Administration (CNSA) said the spacecraft is composed of an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner.

Chinese broadcaster CGTN hosted the launch live and then turned to computer animation to demonstrate the success towards outer space.

The main goal of the project is to dig 2 meters (almost 7 feet) under the surface of the moon and suck up, according to NASA, around 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other particles to be carried back to Earth. That would have the first chance for scientists since the American and Russian missions of the 1960s and 1970s to research freshly acquired lunar material.

Month-Long Mission

The period on the moon for the Chang'e 5 lander is expected to be quick and sweet. Just one lunar day, or around 14 Earth days, will remain, so it lacks radioisotope heating units to survive the freezing nights of the moon.

Through its drill and robotic arm, the lander can search for resources and move them to what's called an ascender, which will take off from the moon and connect with the support capsule. The supplies would then be shifted to the return capsule to be shipped back to Earth.

The spacecraft will split into two as Chang'e-5 reaches the moon's orbit: the combination orbiter-returner will remain in space, circling about 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) above the moon's surface, while the combination lander-ascender will descend and land on the Ocean of Storms. According to the Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, this is predicted to happen by early December.

Chinese Ambition

China was late in the space race. It did not launch the first satellite into orbit until 1970, after an explorer on the moon had already landed in the United States.

Buoyed by billions of dollars of government funding, China has expanded its space program exponentially during the past decade, firing space laboratories and satellites into orbit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking to astronauts onboard the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft via video connection in 2013, said the space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. He said per Xinhua that the Chinese people would take bigger strides to explore further into space.

China became the first nation last year to send an autonomous explorer to the moon's far side. The country also unveiled the first crewless spacecraft to Mars in July of this year-the Tianwen-1 probe that would circle the planet before landing a rover on the soil. It is predicted that next February, it will hit the Red Planet.

Beijing has ambitions to potentially send a crewed spacecraft to Mars if Tianwen-1 is successful. Plans to launch a permanent space station by 2022 and to take astronauts to the moon by the 2030s are already underway.

If effective, after the US, China will become the second nation to place a person on the moon.

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