China set for moon launch in historic mission to collect rocks from the lunar surface

Chang’e 5 is named for the Chinese moon goddess

China is set to launch an uncrewed mission to the moon that will collect rocks from the lunar surface and bring them back to Earth.

The ambitious Chang’e 5 mission offers scientists the first opportunity to study newly obtained lunar material since the American and Russian missions of the 1960s and '70s. Chang’e 5 is named for the Chinese moon goddess.

The four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft are expected to be sent into space Monday aboard a massive Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan, according to a NASA description of the mission.

CHINA LANDS SPACECRAFT ON FAR SIDE OF MOON, STATE MEDIA SAYS

The launch window opens at 3:00 p.m. ET Monday, the NASA description says.

In this Nov. 17, 2020, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-5 rocket is moved at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. Chinese technicians were making final preparations Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, to launch a Long March-5 rocket carrying a mission to bring back material from the lunar surface in a potentially major advance for the country's space program.

In this Nov. 17, 2020, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-5 rocket is moved at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. Chinese technicians were making final preparations Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, to launch a Long March-5 rocket carrying a mission to bring back material from the lunar surface in a potentially major advance for the country's space program. (Guo Cheng/Xinhua via AP)

The rocket was moved to the launch pad in Wenchang Space Launch Center last week, according to China’s National Space Administration.

China became the first country to successfully land a probe on the far side of the moon when its Chang’e 4 probe reached the lunar surface on Jan. 2, 2019.

In 2013, China became just the third country, after the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union, to successfully “soft land” on the moon when its Chang'e 3 lander reached the lunar surface.

CHINA EXCHANGED DATA WITH NASA FOR ITS HISTORIC MOON LANDING

The U.S. is the only country to have placed astronauts on the moon, having last done so in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission. Only 12 men, all Americans, have set foot on the moon.

NASA’s Artemis program aims to return U.S. astronauts to the moon in 2024. However, a recent report from the NASA Office of Inspector General described the 2024 timeline as overly ambitious.

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Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers