BEIJING - China launched an unmanned spacecraft on Tuesday to collect samples of soil from the Moon, state-run media reported, as President Xi Jinping pledged to step up efforts to make the country a "strong space power."
China, making its first attempt to retrieve lunar samples, is also considering constructing a research station and conducting human exploration of the Moon in the future.
A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang'e-5 spacecraft, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 4:30 a.m. Beijing time, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Chinese media said the spacecraft would divide into 2 sections after entering lunar orbit. One will touch down on the Moon and collect 2 kilograms of soil on the surface. The other, remaining in orbit, will receive the samples and return to Earth.
In January 2019, a Chinese unmanned probe made the first-ever soft-landing by a spacecraft on the far, or "dark," side of the Moon and successfully sent back to Earth first photos of that lunar sector.