China intends to share rock and dust samples obtained from the moon by its Chang’e 5 probe, the deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said yesterday.
The capsule landed back on Earth in the northern region of Inner Mongolia in the early hours of Thursday, bringing back the first lunar rocks and soil retrieved by any country since the 1970s, and making China only the third country ever to obtain lunar samples.
The material collected is from a different and much younger region of the Moon than previous US and USSR collection expeditions and is expected to greatly further scientists’ understanding of its origins.
The successful mission also tested China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex exploration expeditions within our solar system.
“In accordance with international cooperation conventions and cooperation pacts, we will issue rules on managing the moon samples and data,” said Wu Yanhua, CNSA’s deputy head.
“We will share with the relevant countries and scientists overseas, and some of them may be given as national gifts.”
When asked if China would share any samples with the US, which limits its Nasa space agency from directly cooperating with China, Wu said existing US restrictions were “unfortunate”.
“The Chinese government is willing to share lunar samples with like-minded institutions and scientists from various countries on the basis of equal benefit and win-win cooperation,” he said. “To be able to cooperate or not depends on US policy.”
China has not disclosed the amount of samples that it has brought to Earth. The plan was to collect 2kg of rocks and soil.
“We will announce this soon,” Hu Hao, chief designer of the third phase of China’s lunar exploration programme, told Reuters at the briefing.
“We have not taken them out of the probe yet,” he admitted.