Eight days ago, China launched an unmanned lunar mission called Chang'e 5 T1. The goal was to send a probe to the moon, orbit it, and successfully land back on Earth. Last night, the mission module made its triumphant return home and Chinese officials celebrated a major step forward for the nation's emerging space program.
"Chinese officials said the data gathered during the mission should help researchers design and build a capsule that will bring lunar rocks and dirt to Earth, which China hopes to accomplish by 2017."
After that, the goal would be to put Chinese boots on the lunar surface sometime during the 2020s.
It was only about 11 months ago that China's first moon rover, named Yutu or "Jade Rabbit," touched down on the lunar surface. Despite some major mechanical hiccups, the mission was treated as a success by Beijing. That's because, as with Chang'e 5 T1, each of these accomplishments represents China's augmented ability to play with the big boys -- the U.S. and Russia. Chinese military officials hope that the country's space program launches it into the upper echelon of nations, echoing the mid-20th century space race's effect on the United States and Soviet Union.
Read more at Space.com
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