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Science

China displays its space ambitions with flag on moon

Beijing seeks to build a lunar base in the next 10 years

China's national flag is seen unfurled from the Chang'e-5 spacecraft on the moon in this handout image provided by China National Space Administration via Reuters.

BEIJING -- A Chinese flag now stands on the moon in the latest display of the Asian nation's ambitions in space.

The National Space Administration has released an image of the flag, which the state-run Xinhua News Agency described as the "five stars shining" on the moon.

China is the second country to have its flag on the moon. Unlike during the 1969 U.S. moon landing, the Chinese flag was planted not by an astronaut but by a machine -- the Chang'e-5 lunar lander.

Cheng Chang, the technical director in charge of the lunar flag display, said the team spent more than a year selecting the material for the flag to ensure it withstands cosmic rays and the grueling temperature changes on the moon's surface, according to Xinhua.

The flag is 2-meters wide and 90 cm tall and weighs about 1 kg. It needed to be deployed in one second to ensure success, Xinhua reports.

A display system holding China's national flag, upper right, is seen from the Chang'e-5 spacecraft on the moon in this panoramic handout image provided by China National Space Administration via Reuters.

Xinhua quotes a metalworker who crafted parts for the flag display and said he would tell his grandson "Grandpa made this." Another member of the team said the round knob on top of the pole -- which had to be ultralightweight so as not to weigh down the probe -- was inspired by Japanese gashapon toy capsules.

The Chang'e-5 lander has collected lunar soil to be returned to the earth, the National Space Administration said Thursday. China is poised to become only the third nation, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union, to achieve such a feat.

The lunar soil, estimated to be 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion years old, would be the first brought back to Earth in 44 years. The samples were collected from the surface and up to roughly 2 meters below, according to the space agency.

The Chang'e-5 landed on the moon on Tuesday, part of a Chinese space program that plans to build a lunar base around 2030 and search for resources there by 2035.

Beyond the moon, China aims to conduct a Mars survey in 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. A crewed mission to Mars is envisioned for 2045.

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