Ignition of Chang'e 5
|Mission type||Lunar sample return|
|Mission duration||1 day, 10 minutes (since launch)|
|Launch mass||8,200 kg (18,100 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||November 23, 2020|
November 24, 2020
|Rocket||Long March 5|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||17 December, 2020 (planned)|
|Landing site||Mons Rümker region of Oceanus Procellarum (planned)|
|Sample mass||2,000 grams (71 oz)|
Chang'e 5 (Chinese: 嫦娥五号; pinyin: Cháng'é wǔhào) is an ongoing robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission consisting of a service module, lunar lander, ascender, and a sample-return vehicle. It was launched on November 23, 2020 20:30 UTC and is expected to land on the moon sometime after November 27, and return to Earth around December 16–17. Chang'e 5 will be China's first sample return mission, aiming to return at least 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of lunar soil and rock samples back to the Earth. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese Moon goddess, Chang'e.
This will be the first lunar sample-return mission since Luna 24 in 1976 and – if successful – would make China the third country to return samples from the Moon after USA and USSR. It launched from the Wenchang Satellite launch centre in Hainan.
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is designed to be conducted in four phases of incremental technological advancement: The first was simply reaching lunar orbit, a task completed by Chang'e 1 in 2007 and Chang'e 2 in 2010. The second is landing and roving on the Moon, as Chang'e 3 did in 2013 and Chang'e 4 in 2019 (launched in December 2018, landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019). The third phase is collecting lunar samples from the near side and sending them to Earth, a task for the future Chang'e 5 and Chang'e 6 missions. The fourth phase consists of the development of a robotic research station near the Moon's south pole. The program aims to facilitate a crewed lunar landing in the 2030s and possibly build an outpost near the lunar south pole.
The probe was previously planned for launch by a Long March 5 rocket at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, but a failure of this vehicle in 2017 created uncertainty about its ability to carry Chang'e 5. The spacecraft is still planned to be launched with a Long March 5 rocket, and the planned landing zone is Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum, located in the northwest region of the near side of the Moon. This area contains geological units around 1.21 billion years old, compared to the Apollo samples that were between 3.1 and 4.4 billion years old. The location is a large, elevated volcanic mound 70 km (43 mi) in diameter that features a strong spectroscopic signature of basaltic lunar mare material.
The mission is reported to consist of four modules or elements: the lander would collect about 2 kg (4.4 lb) of samples from 2 metres (6.6 ft) below the surface and place them in an attached ascent vehicle that will be launched into lunar orbit. The ascent vehicle will make an automatic rendezvous and docking with an orbiter that would transfer the samples into a sample-return capsule for their delivery to Earth.
The launch of Chang’e-5 from Wenchang occurred on November 24. Sunrise over Mons Rümker will occur on November 27, ahead of the landing. The mission seeks to collect 2 kilograms of rock samples by both drilling to a depth of up to two meters and scooping up surface material.
Unlike Chang'e 4 which was equipped with a radioisotope heater unit to survive the extreme cold of lunar night, the Chang’e-5 landing and sampling need to take place within a single, 14-Earth-day lunar daytime. The total mission is expected to last a total of 23 days until landing in Dorbod Banner, Inner Mongolia, around December 16–17. Samples would then be transferred to specially developed facilities for handling, analyzing, and storing the lunar material.
Chang'e 5-T1 is an experimental robotic lunar mission that was launched on 23 October 2014 to conduct atmospheric re-entry tests on the capsule design planned to be used in the Chang'e 5 mission. Its service module, called DFH-3A, remained in orbit around the Earth before being relocated via Earth-Moon L2 to lunar orbit by 13 January 2015, where it is using its remaining 800 kg of fuel to test maneuvers key to future lunar missions.
The lander will carry landing cameras, a panoramic camera, a spectrometer to determine mineral composition, a soil gas analytical instrument, a soil composition analytical instrument, a sampling sectional thermo-detector, and a ground-penetrating radar. For acquiring samples, it will be equipped with a robotic arm, a rotary-percussive drill, a scoop for sampling, and separation tubes to isolate individual samples.
The European Space Agency supports the Chang'e 5 Mission by providing tracking via ESA's Kourou station, located in French Guiana. ESA will track the spacecraft during the launch and landing phases while providing on-call backup for China's ground stations throughout the mission. Data from the Kourou station will help the mission control team at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre to determine the spacecraft's health and orbit status. Chang'e 5 is expected to return to Earth around December 15, 2020. During the landing phase, ESA will use its Maspalomas station, located in the Canary Islands and operated by the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aerospacial (INTA) in Spain, to support the tracking efforts.
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