China to launch moon probe, seeking first lunar rock retrieval since 1970s

BEIJING: China plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon this week to bring back lunar rocks in the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from Earth’s natural satellite since the 1970s.

The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation. 

READ: Commentary: The growing, secret space programme behind China’s moon landing

The mission will test China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex missions.

If successful, the mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, following the United States and the Soviet Union decades ago.

Since the Soviet Union crash-landed the Luna 2 on the moon in 1959, the first human-made object to reach another celestial body, a handful of other countries including Japan and India have launched moon missions.

In the Apollo programme, which first put men on the moon, the United States landed 12 astronauts over six flights from 1969 to 1972, bringing back 382kg of rocks and soil.

The Soviet Union deployed three successful robotic sample return missions in the 1970s. The last, the Luna 24, retrieved 170.1g of samples in 1976 from Mare Crisium, or “Sea of Crises”.

China’s probe, scheduled to launch in coming days, will attempt to collect 2kg of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.

“The Apollo-Luna sample zone of the moon, while critical to our understanding, was undertaken in an area that comprises far less than half the lunar surface,” said James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University.

READ: China lands probe on far side of moon in global first

Subsequent data from orbital remote sensing missions have shown a wider diversity of rock types, mineralogies and ages than represented in the Apollo-Luna sample collections, he said.

“Lunar scientists have been advocating for robotic sample return missions to these many different critical areas in order to address a host of fundamental questions remaining from earlier exploration,” Head said.

The Chang’e-5 mission may help answer questions such as how long the moon remained volcanically active in its interior and when its magnetic field – key to protecting any form of life from the sun’s radiation – dissipated.


Once in the moon’s orbit, the probe will aim to deploy a pair of vehicles to the surface: A lander will drill into the ground, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender that will lift off and dock with an orbiting module.

If this is successful, the samples will be transferred to a return capsule that will return them to Earth.

READ: China launch of key new space rocket ‘successful’: State media

China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January 2019, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any nation’s space probe.

Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region.

It is to be developed through the Chang’e-6, 7 and 8 missions through the 2020s and expanded through the 2030s ahead of manned landings.

China plans to retrieve samples from Mars by 2030.

In July, China launched an unmanned probe to Mars in its first independent mission to another planet.

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Cool 1970s vibe saves Marshall family home from development

A Marshall house earmarked to make way for a new childcare centre will remain a residential address after selling at auction on Saturday.

The four-bedroom, architect-designed 1970s pad on almost 1000sq m of land attracted four bidders, who also had the option of purchasing an adjoining 441sq m block.

McGrath, Geelong agent David McGuinness said the same buyers snapped up both properties with plans for their son to move in.

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Mr McGuinness said the house at 32-34 Grove Road, Marshall sold under the hammer for $580,000.

The neighbouring block at 30 Grove Road, which had a price guide of $240,000-$260,000, was passed in but later sold during negotiations.

Mr McGuinness said the buyers’ son was a chippy who would put his skills to use in renovating the substantial brick house, which still rocked a cool 1970s vibe.

“It was ’70s place and you just kept expecting Austin Powers to walk in and say ‘yeah baby’,” he said.

“It even had a sunken lounge.

“I’m just glad it’s not going to be bowled over.”

The house offers three separate living rooms a central kitchen/dining room with a wall of north-facing windows, a main bedroom suite with an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe, a study and a separate bungalow.

Mr McGuinness said it offered a whole lot of house on what would remain a large parcel of land.

He said the site, on the corner of Station Road, had plans for a childcare centre but none of the bidders were looking to take up this option, although one buyer was looking at it for a medical centre.

This would have required purchasing the block for carparking.

A contingent of neighbours were among those keenly following the outcome of the auction on Saturday.

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Skin cancer warning after 150% rise in UK deaths since 1970s | UK News

Britons have been urged to take care in the sun after a dramatic rise in skin cancer deaths in the UK.

Figures from Cancer Research UK show that in the early 1970s, 1.5 people out of every 100,000 died of skin cancer.

By 2017 this was 3.8 per 100,000 – a rise of 153% – with 2,357 deaths in the UK attributed to skin cancer.

Cancer Research UK said the increase in skin cancer deaths was greatest among men, with their rates now three times higher than in the 1970s.

Skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 16,000 people diagnosed each year, but nine in 10 cases are caught early, the charity added.

It has warned the vast majority of cases are linked to too much sun or using sunbeds.

This year the UK has seen UV levels which have been among its highest ever recorded.

A packed Bournemouth beach in June when the UK recorded UV levels among its highest ever

According to the Met Office’s website, the UV index “does not exceed eight in the UK” – but level nine was predicted in parts of the South West in June.

The aim of the UV index is to urge people to change their behaviour to protect themselves against the risks of skin cancer and skin damage.

Cancer Research UK has now issued advice on how to protect against skin cancer:

  • Seek shade when the sun is at its hottest – between 11am and 3pm in the UK
  • Cover up with T-shirts, hats and sunglasses
  • Regular use of an SPF15 sun cream which has four or more stars to indicate the level of UVA protection

Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s chief executive, said: “There are many benefits to going outside, felt now more than ever because of sustained periods of lockdown. But something we should all be aware of is sun safety and how to reduce our risk of melanoma.

“Even though many summer holidays on beaches abroad have come to a halt, you can still get burnt in the UK sun.

“With rates rising, it’s never been more important to stay safe in the sun and contact your GP if you notice any unusual change to your skin.”

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