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China launches robotic mission to haul Moon rocks back to Earth, first in over 40 years

The China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Chang’e-5 mission blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in a pre-dawn launch on Monday, putting the advanced robotic craft and its Long March-5 carrier rocket – the largest of its kind in China – on course for the Moon. If all goes off without a hitch, the craft is meant to gather space rocks off the pock-marked satellite and ship them back home by mid-December.

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In addition to collecting lunar materials to help scientists understand the Moon’s origins and history, the mission will also put Chinese robotics to the test, using a remotely operated craft to grab and store the rock samples in preparation for more complicated tasks.

“This is one thing that the Chinese space program is very good at,” Andrew Jones, a journalist who closely follows China’s space program, told the Verge.

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