China launches robotic spacecraft to the moon

China on Tuesday launched an unmanned spacecraft to a previously untouched part of the moon to bring lunar rocks back to Earth.

The mission of the Chang'e-5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, is to collect 4-1/2 pounds of samples to help scientists understand more about the moon's origins and formation.

If successful, it would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In one lunar day - or about two weeks here on Earth - China will try to collect the material from an unvisited area in a massive lava plain on the moon. The samples will then be transferred to a return capsule and sent back to Earth.

It's a test for China ahead of more complex missions.

Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region of the moon.

And it plans to retrieve samples from Mars by 2030.

China’s current mission comes as NASA is planning to send robotic rovers to the moon before an eventual human landing - for the first time since 1972.

Video Transcript

- China on Tuesday launched an unmanned spacecraft to a previously untouched part of the moon to bring lunar rocks back to Earth. The mission of the Chang'e-5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, is to collect 4 and 1/2 pounds of samples to help scientists understand more about the moon's origins and formation. If successful, it would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the US and the Soviet Union.

In one lunar day, or about two weeks here on Earth, China will try to collect the material from an unvisited area in a massive lava plane on the moon. The samples will then be transferred to a return capsule and sent back to Earth.

It's a test for China ahead of more complex missions. Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region of the moon, and it plans to retrieve samples from Mars by 2030.

China's current mission comes as NASA is planning to send robotic rovers to the moon before an eventual human landing for the first time since 1972.