A Chinese spacecraft lifted off from the moon Thursday night with a load of lunar rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported. Chang’e 5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon and the first to take off from it again, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space program, which also has a orbiter and rover headed to Mars. Right before the ascent vehicle lifted off, the lander unfurled what the space administration called the first free-standing Chinese flag on the moon. The agency posted an image — apparently taken from the lander — of the ascend vehicle firing its engines as it took off.The spacecraft “unfolded the five-star red national flag, a genuine one made from fabrics, marking a first in the country’s aerospace history,” state media said.The Chang’e 5 touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side. Its mission: collect about 4 pounds of lunar rocks and bring them back to Earth, the first return of samples since Soviet spacecraft did so in the 1970s. Earlier, the U.S. Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of moon rocks.The landing site is… Read full this story
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