Why China’s latest mission to the Moon is significant

The Long March-5 rocket is transported to the launching area

The mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists understand more about the moon's origins and formation.

The Chief Executive Officer of private aerospace manufacturer company SpaceX is commending China's latest Moon mission and recognized its efforts in the space race that occurs among the country's nations.

China was late in the space race. The Chang'e 5 lunar mission is China's first-ever sample return mission.

While the mission is "indeed challenging", McDowell said China has already landed twice on the moon with its Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 4 missions, and showed with a 2014 Chang'e 5 test mission that it can navigate back to Earth, re-enter and land a capsule.

A successful mission would make China the third nation to bring Moon-rock samples back to Earth, after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The spacecraft detached from the first and second stages of the rocket minutes after its liftoff and slipped into the Earth-Moon transit orbit.

Earlier, a Sputnik correspondent reported that the Chang'e 5 lunar mission was successfully launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center in Wenchang, in China's Hainan island province.

Both NASA and Dr. Zurbuchen's statement is hoping for China's joint effort to contribute the data it collects from the moon to the global space community.

A detailed timeline of the mission has not been released by China.

Other countries are also forging ahead, underscored by the dramatic landing of America's Curiosity Mars rover in 2012 and the return to Earth next month of Japan's explorer Hayabusa2 with samples collected from the asteroid Ryugu.

China's Chang'e 5 lunar sample return mission will be followed by the Chang'e 6 sample return mission from the lunar South Pole planned for 2024. The material could provide new information about the Moon's past volcanic activity.

The Chinese mission will collect samples from a region with less craters.

"As a result of this, I'm pretty optimistic that China can pull this off", he said.

Chang'e 4 - which made the first soft landing on the moon's relatively unexplored far side nearly two years ago - is now collecting full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, information vital for any country that plans to send astronauts to the moon.

If it can pull it off, it will make China just the third nation to bring lunar samples back to Earth for study, after the USA and Russian Federation.

Carrying on the sound momentum, China set a new milestone in 2013 after the Chang'e-3 lunar probe "Yutu" soft-landed on the moon, making the country the third to carry out such a mission.

Beijing has ambitions to potentially send a crewed spacecraft to Mars if Tianwen-1 is successful. That has prompted China to start work on its own space station and launch its own programs that have put it in a steady competition with Japan and India, among Asian nations seeking to notch new achievements in space.

China's space program has progressed cautiously, with relatively few setbacks in recent years.

Space experts and educators from around the world are closely following the Chang'e 5 mission and are optimistic it can achieve its targets. China's one-party authoritarian system also allows for "prolonged political will that is often hard in democracies", she said.

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