The launch of three experimental remote sensing satellites last week signaled the resumption of Chinese space launches following multiple rocket failures since late last year, but a senior Chinese space official has confirmed the Chang’e 5 mission to return samples from the moon remains grounded.
China’s second Long March 5 rocket fell short of orbit Sunday after lifting off from a spaceport in the southern Chinese province of Hainan, placing a cloud over the country’s plans to send a robotic sample return mission to the moon later this year.
China plans to launch a robotic mission to return samples from the lunar surface, the first such mission in four decades, in November on top of the country’s new heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, according to state media reports.
If China’s lunar exploration program goes according to plan, scientists could send a robotic lander to pick up samples from the far side of the moon and return them to Earth by the early 2020s, a top Chinese space official said.
A rover and landing platform developed as a backup for China’s Chang’e 3 moon mission will be repurposed to attempt the first touchdown on the lunar far side by the end of the decade, Chinese officials said.