On 4 December, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) released photos showing China's national flag unfurled from the Chang'e-5 probe on the moon.
According to Xinhua News, a panoramic camera installed on the lander-ascender combination of the probe took these images. Right after taking these photos, the ascender took off from the moon with lunar samples late Thursday, 3 December.
The mission carried out by Chang'e-5 is the first moon-sample mission in over 40 years. Chang'e-5 is expected to conduct unmanned rendezvous and docking with the orbiter-returner in lunar orbit.
"Having packed samples of soil and rocks from the Earth's only natural satellite within 19 hours after its smooth soft landing, the ascender of the Chinese spacecraft using the lander as a launchpad, took off from the moon surface," said the China National Space Administration Thursday evening in a statement shared by state media Global Times.
"This is the first attempt in China's aerospace history to lift off from a celestial body other than Earth," chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine Wang Ya'nan said to Global Times. "The launch is a major test, in that the vehicle had to rely entirely on automatic manoeuvres without any ground command."
Wang noted that the launch from the moon could not afford any time delay. "If the probe receives a command from the Earth to help it control the separation, altitude, and speed, there will be at least one-second delay, which will put the process in great danger."
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said in a statement to state media that another factor that posed a challenge to the lunar takeoff is that the lander-ascender combination might sit on a slope, which would bring uncertainty to the probe's altitude and position. It means that the probe must ensure its own altitude is precise enough to enter the designated orbit through automatic decision-making,
The Soviet Union was the first country to imprint its national symbol on the moon, with a football-sized metal ball, carved with its national flag, full of explosives, smashing to the lunar ground in the Luna 2 mission in 1959.