The new colonial movement: The sample return capsule for China’s Chang’e-5 mission, the first to bring lunar samples back to Earth since 1976, has been successfully recovered in the inner Mongolia region of China today.
Chinese officials confirmed the roughly 660-pound (300-kilogram) capsule landed at 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT) Wednesday, or 1:59 a.m. Thursday in Beijing.
Recovery crews dispatched to the remote landing zone converged on the capsule in helicopters and off-road vehicles, traveling across the snow-covered plains of Inner Mongolia in the middle of the night. Ground teams reached the Chang’e 5 return module within minutes to begin operations to secure the capsule, and planted a Chinese flag in the frozen soil next the spacecraft.
Crews plan to transport the module to Beijing, where scientists will open the sample carrier and begin analyzing the moon rocks.
For China this success is a major milestone for its government-run space program. They have demonstrated superb technical capabilities that will serve them on many more future missions. They have also signaled to the world and the U.S. that they mean business in space, and that their published plans to build colonies on the Moon are serious. They have also made it clear that they will enforce control over any territory they occupy, notwithstanding the rules of the Outer Space Treaty. Any American government that makes light of these facts and refuses to aggressively compete with China is going to quickly discover it shut out of the most valuable locations on the Moon.
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