Landing of China's Chang'e-5T Spacecraft Paves Way for Sample Return
November 2, 2014 • 6:16PM

The safe landing of the Chang'e-5T Return Module early this morning, which was the lead news on CCTV, after a week-long silence about the mission, has tested key capabilities needed for the next step in China's lunar program. The module, which the Chinese have nicknamed, "Xiaofei," or "little flyer," makes clear its high-temperature descent through the atmosphere, by showing significant charring. The testing of the heat shield was the major objective of the mission. Space officials are now confident that major technical requirements for a sample return mission have been met, including the protective heat shield, deep space communications, navigation, and control, and precision maneuvering for return through the Earth's atmosphere.

As space commentators on CCTV pointed out, for the Chang'e-5 sample return mission, the major step is to get the heavier Long March 5 rocket certified. At present, the mission to go to the Moon, set down a lander, collect lunar soil samples, blast off from the Moon, link-up with an orbiter, and return to Earth, is scheduled for 2017.

The BRICS Countries Are Using Space, and "Now It's Africa's Turn"

South Africa's Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, speaking Oct. 27 at the opening of the 10th conference of the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment, said Africa had to move away from being a "client" of scientific information, and develop its own. She said: "The BRICS countries have invested substantially in recent years. India, China, and Russia are now leading contributors to the space economy. Now, it's Africa's turn."

"We must stimulate an African dialogue on the use of space for development, building African capacity in science and technology, and promoting continental coordination of space activities."South Africa, with the most advanced space capabilities, would necessarily play the leading role.

She said that dialogue has started to yield some positive results, with space agencies having been established in a number of African countries recently, including in South Africa. And an African Space Policy and Strategy was being developed by the African Union through the Ministers Committee on Science and Technology. These initiatives are strengthening Africa's existing capabilities, she said.

Pandor is a passionate spokesman for promoting economic development for Africa, through breakthroughs in science and the application of the most advanced technologies, based on a commitment to dramatically upgrading universal education.

Also speaking at the conference was University of Cape Town Professor Mike Inggs, who stressed that a massive injection of funds into training and education was required, Creamer Media reports. It is also "crucial that senior leadership [at] all levels of government receive appropriate exposure to space technology," he said.