The Chinese probe Chang’e-5 successfully landed on the moon this Tuesday (1º) at 12:13 pm (from Brasília). The next stage of the mission, which is already on site, is to harvest about 2 kg of earth from the moon to be sent back to Earth – the first moon return of samples since the Soviet Luna-24 probe in 1976.
Despite the initial promise to broadcast the live landing, Chinese state television changed its mind at the last minute, leaving everyone unsure whether the landing had actually taken place as planned. Only after everything was defined were pictures of the descent published.
Chang’e-5 left Earth at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 23, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. The translum injection (firing the rocket to get the spaceship on its way to the natural satellite) came less than an hour later.
The destination is the Mount Rümker region on Oceanus Procellarum (in the same “sea” in which Apollo 12 descended in 1969, but far from the American landing site). The sun rose there on the 27th. The starship entered lunar orbit on the 28th, made adjustments to orbital insertion on the 29th, and then promoted the separation of the descent module. After landing, Chang’e-5 is said to work on the lunar soil for almost two weeks (as long as there is sunlight) and use a drill to take samples up to a depth of 2 meters at the landing site.
The samples are loaded onto the ascent module installed on top of the descent module (as in the Apollo missions) and then it is launched to hit the orbital module and return pod. The set then leaves the lunar orbit towards Earth. Samples shipped in the return capsule are expected to be released into the atmosphere between December 16-17. The descent is done by parachute and the material is saved in Inner Mongolia.
The Chinese space program tested the re-entry capsule model back in 2014 with the Chang’e-5-T1 mission. The lunar landing modules were also extensively tested in the Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-4 missions (the latter was the first landing of a country on the other side of the moon in 2019). The greatest tension is therefore in the ascent module, which has to bring the samples from the surface into the orbit of the moon.
And something that caught the attention of program watchers is the size of the ships. They are small for manned flights but quite large for pure robotic missions, indicating that China is using its lunar program as a technological forerunner for future astronaut missions. The country does not hide its ambition to have a lunar base in the next decade.
Follow Sidereal Messenger on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube