China is launching a robotic spacecraft to remove rocks from the moon

WENCHANG, China: China on Tuesday launched a robotic spacecraft to retrieve rocks from the moon in a country’s first bid to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, a mission that underscores China’s ambitions in space.

The Long March-5, China’s largest launch vehicle, fired at 4:30 a.m. Beijing time (Monday 2030 GMT) in a pre-dawn launch from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the South China island of Hainan with the Chang’e- 5 spacecraft.

Named for the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, the Chang’e-5 mission will collect lunar material to help scientists understand the origin and formation of the moon. The mission will test China’s ability to remotely acquire space monsters ahead of more complex missions.

If successful, China’s mission would only make China the third country to collect lunar samples and join the United States and the Soviet Union.

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