The Chang’e 5 mission in 2020 returned to Earth with the world’s first lunar samples in more than 40 years, around 1.7kg (3.74lbs) of rocks and dust, which have already yielded new information for researchers.
The 23-day mission was also China’s first attempt to land on the moon, collect samples and return them safely to Earth.
The award celebrated the Chang’e 5 mission’s “outstanding contributions to human lunar and deep space exploration”. The certificate also acknowledged the complexity of the mission, with steps that included lunar-Earth transfer, surface sampling, lunar surface take-off, and a skip re-entry.
Chief designer of the mission Hu Hao, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said the prize was an “affirmation from our global counterparts in regard to China’s aerospace development”, in an interview on Monday with state broadcaster CGTN.
Hu pointed out that while the award is based on innovation and science, international cooperation is also a high requirement. He paid tribute to the European Space Agency’s deep space measurements, which “played a very important supporting role”.
Through the Chang’e missions, “we are exploring the universe together and exploring the unknown to enhance our abilities and understanding,” he said.
The CGTN report also said that the Chinese space agency is inviting research units to apply if they want to study the lunar samples.
Chang’e 5 achievements include the discovery of the Chang’e Stone – the sixth mineral to be found on the moon. Analysis of the lunar samples has also revealed evidence of volcanic activity and the presence of water that researchers believe was created by solar winds.
At the academy’s Baku meeting, CNSA said the Chang’e 8 mission – slated to launch in 2028 – is open to international collaborations and will be taking applications until the end of the year, according to state-owned news agency Xinhua.