Credit: ESA/NASA



China’s blossoming robotic moon exploration agenda appears to be in a state of flux. Due to a July launch failure of the country’s most powerful rocket on its second flight, the Long March 5, a readjustment of China’s lunar program is seemingly underway.

Apollo 15 image captures landing locale of China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander – the Mons Rümker region in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum.
Credit: NASA






There are consistent and bubbling rumors from inside and outside China that a Chang’e-5 sample return moon mission is now on months, perhaps years of hold. Instead, next up would be a planned lunar lander and rover to plop down on the lunar farside in 2018. That spacecraft would be hurled moonward on a different booster, not a Long March-5. All this would be prelude to China’s already stated intent to dispatch moon missions to lunar polar sites.

China’s Chang’e 3 lander.
Chinese Academy of Sciences/China National Space Administration/The Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration






Scientific bonanza

The apparently delayed Chang’e-5 moon sampling task is surely a tougher-to-do enterprise – but primed to offer a big and globally recognized scientific bonanza.






Go to my new Scientific American story for details:

China’s Delayed Moon Mission Sparks Debate over Lunar Samples

The Chang’e 5 spacecraft could return invaluable new moon rocks to Earth, but who will get to study them?

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