China has become the second country in the world to unfurl its flag on the moon after the United States, which put its flag on the lunar surface some 50 years ago. China’s National Space Administration released pictures of the five-starred red flag on the moon, taken by the Chang’e-5 spacecraft’s camera. The spacecraft “unfolded the five-star red national flag, a genuine one made from fabrics, marking a first in the country’s aerospace history,” the Chinese state media said.
Chang’e 5 is the third Chinese spacecraft to successfully land on the moon and the first to take off from it again. It is the latest achievement for Beijing’s ambitious space program, which also has an orbiter and rover heading for Mars.
The Chang’e, named after the Chinese moon goddess, is also scheduled to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades. China is now the third nation in the world, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to collect lunar samples for scientific purposes.
The soil and rock samples obtained from the moon by the Chinese spacecraft are expected to provide information about the moon’s origin, geological evolution, lunar volcanic activity, and also offer insights into solar activities in the universe, according to the mission team. The space probe is expected to land in Inner Mongolia on December 16. From there, the samples will be transported to specialised labs for analysis.
The tradition of unfurling flags on the moon was started by the United States. The US planted the first flag on the moon during the manned Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Five more US flags were planted on the surface during subsequent missions till 1972.
During its first manned mission to the moon, a Lunar Flag Assembly kit was designed and sent aboard the Apollo mission, astronauts assembled the flag and put it on the lunar surface. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) specially designed a flag that would not droop due to the lack of atmosphere in the moon.
Chang’e-5’s successful mission vindicates President Xi Jinping’s “space dreams”. The latest mission sets the tone for the upcoming slew of ambitious targets, which includes creating a rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those Nasa and the private spaceflight firm SpaceX, a lunar base, and a permanently crewed space station.