Chang’e-5’s Chinese lunar spacecraft returned to Earth this week with a precious load of sand and rocks. But this significant marker in China’s joint space missions is only one stop on a long journey that has already been initiated by the China National Space Administration and partners including the European Space Agency.
Mark McCaughrean, Senior Science and Exploration advisor at ESA, told CGTN Europe, “With Chang’e-5 coming back, [we] have talked extensively about international collaboration and sharing out of samples.”
Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of CNSA, confirmed some Chang’e-5 materials would be shared internationally. The mission’s deputy chief designer Li Chunlai added that some of the lunar discoveries would be reserved for public display.
“[It’s] a way of creating good relations in order to go ahead and do things together that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own,” he said. “Scientifically there’s a lot of work to be done on the moon and Chang’e-5 is a key stepping stone in that.”
Solar weather warning Of China:
The SMILE project of China and Europe aims to better understand “solar weather” is one of the areas McCaughrean pointed to as an example of global collaboration.
But we’re used to here on Earth, unlike the cloud and storm, “solar wind” impacts the magnetic bubble of the planet and can also inflict power surges here when serious cases strike.
“When you have big solar storms and material flows out from the sun, an explosion can occur – what we call a coronal mass ejection,” explained McCaughrean. “If that’s directed at the Earth and enough particles hit the Earth all at once, they can knock out your power systems.”
“The last time this happened was actually in the 1850s… we got hit by one of these big storms. Back in the 1850s, they had telegraphs. And the power coming from the sun at that point actually was enough to throw the telegraph operators off their chairs because power flowed through their wires. But imagine that now in the 21st century with all the electronics we have.”
While it is rare for such “mass ejections” to reach Earth (McCaughrean estimates a 10 percent chance every decade), a key mission in the human journey to space is to calculate, understand, and even predict the weather in our solar system.
“The space weather stuff will actually have a real impact on human society on the Earth,” McCaughrean warned. “And to be quite honest, we’re not prepared for it. So there’s a lot of work to be done to harden our systems.”