China becomes the second country to plant flag on the moon

China has become the second country to plant it national flag on the moon’s surface. Before China’s Chang’e-5 probe took off from the moon to return to earth, a Chinese national flag unfurled from the lander-ascender combination.

The China National Space Administration (CSNA) released pictures of Chinese flag placed on the lunar surface.

The Chinese spacecraft carrying the country’s first lunar samples has started its return journey from the moon, according to the country’s space authority.

China launched the spacecraft on November 24 to bring back rocks and soil from the moon in the first bid by any country to retrieve samples since 1976.

“From the point of view of the samples, the main difference from the previous samples obtained by the United States and the Soviet Union is the difference in the landing area,” Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Programme Centre, told state broadcaster CCTV on Friday.

“The material composition and stratum structure of different sampling points may be different so by studying these samples, we can reconstruct the formation process of this area, and the scientific understanding of the cause and evolution of the moon,” Pei said.

The CNSA did not disclose the weight of the samples.

But on Sunday, state news agency Xinhua quoted Pei as saying that China had chosen a “complicated technological approach”, including using an unmanned vehicle and docking in lunar orbit, to “bring back more samples and lay a technological foundation for manned lunar missions”.

The Chang’e 5 spacecraft is expected to land in the snow-covered grasslands of Inner Mongolia in northern China in the middle of this month.

China is the third country to retrieve samples from the moon after the US Apollo programme brought 382kg (840 pounds) of lunar rocks and soil back to Earth over six moon-landing missions, and the former Soviet Union collected a little over 300 grams of lunar samples from three missions.