China launches robotic spacecraft to grab Moon rock samples

[VIDEO: CGTN, a Chinese state broadcaster] China on Tuesday launched a robotic spacecraft to bring back rocks from the moon. Reuters reports it's the first attempt any nation has made since the 1970s to retrieve samples from the lunar surface. Back then, it was us. Russia did, also. Now, it's China.


The Long March-5, China's largest carrier rocket, blasted off at 4:30 a.m. Beijing time (2030 GMT on Monday) in a pre-dawn launch from Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan carrying the Chang'e-5 spacecraft.

The Chang'e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect lunar material to help scientists understand more about the moon's origins and formation. The mission will test China's ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex missions.

State broadcaster CCTV, which ran live coverage of the launch, showed images of China National Space Administration staff in blue uniforms applauding and cheering as they watched the spacecraft climbing through the atmosphere, lighting up the night sky.

More at Reuters: China launches robotic spacecraft to retrieve rocks from the moon