Over 50 years after the United States planted the first human flag on the moon, China has become the second country to leave a flag on the lunar surface.
Images of the flag, which were taken by a camera fitted to Chang’e 5, were shared by China’s National Space Administration. They were taken right before Chang’e 5 collected samples of lunar soil before exiting the moon and returning to Earth.
The flag, representing China, is 2 m wide and 90 cm tall.
China’s ambitious lunar mission Chang’e 5 successfully landed on the Moon on Tuesday, marking the third time that the country has placed a robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface. Chang’e 5 was launched from China’s Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on November 23, 2020, flying to space on top of a Long March 5 rocket.
The Chinese lunar mission is a complex one as it consists of four main spacecraft that will work together to bring between 2 to 4 kilograms of lunar dirt back to Earth. You might be wondering why the need arose to send another lunar mission when man had already stepped on the Moon in 1969.
After the United States and Russia, China would be the third nation to bring rocks back from the Moon. However, the rocks brought back by the US and Russia are much older, around 3.2 billion years. Bagging rocks from the location where China has landed its spacecraft will help scientists to more accurately date the Moon.
The Chinese lunar mission is also testing out technologies that will be needed for future missions to the Moon as well as Mars. According to ABC Science, the technology used in this mission for functions like navigation, landing, docking in space and re-entering earth will also help with crewed missions in the future too.
China had said that it plans to send humans to the Moon and have a permanent base there by the end of the decade. The country is also planning to work out something similar on Mars. China has sent a spacecraft flying to the Red Planet, with the aim of touching down in May next year. If it succeeds, it will be the third nation to have robots on Mars. The country hopes to bring back material from Mars by 2030.