Chang'e-5 Lunar Sample Return Mission Coming In Hot: China Gears-up for the November Launch

Changé 5
Photo : OptoMechEngineer

Chang'e-5 is gearing up for November's launch of the sample return mission. The preparations for this mission have already started. The last time lunar samples were collected was in the 1970s. Chang's 5 will bring back two kilograms of lunar samples. The launch is likely to take place in late November. This is according to satellite and ship-tracking data. 

The  Chinese Lunar Exploration Program has four phases. The first phase explored the lunar orbit. The mission was carried out by Chang'e 1and Chang'e 2. The second phase involved landing and roving on the Moon. This phase was initiated by Changé 3 and Changé 4. Changé 5 is in the third phase of the program. This phase involves the collection of samples on the moon. The last phase involves the development of a robotic research station on the moon. The end goal is to facilitate crewed lunar landings. 

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Long March 5 components are in transit from Tianjin city to Qinglan, Hainan island. Two specialized cargo ships are transporting the components. The ships are Yuanwang-21 and -22. They were spotted at the manufacturing point port city of Tianjin. The components are destined for Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The Long March 5 rocket launched the Tianwen-1 Mars mission in July. The two ships delivered the rocket in Hainan from Tianjin. 

Changé 5 landing and sampling 

The delivery process often takes 60 days before the rocket launch. The rocket will most likely launch in late November. Changé-5 will land on a site close to the Oceanus Procellarum region. The site is located on the western edge of the moon. Changé 5 will enter lunar orbit around the 27th of November and prepare for landing. Changé 5 landing and sampling will take 14-Earth-day lunar daytime.

The Mons Rümker region contains geological units. Most of them are about 1.21 billion years old. Apollo astronauts brought back samples aged between 3.1 and 4.4 billion years old.

Chang'e 5 has four spacecraft and a service module. The mission lander collects samples and places them in an ascent vehicle. The vehicle lifts off and docks with the orbiting service module. The samples are transferred to the return module and brought back to Earth. The return module performs a 'skip re-entry' as it approaches Earth. However, it has to detach from the service module. The skip re-entry helps the service module to deal with high velocity from the moon.

The lunar samples will be taken to Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia. This complex mission is in its third phase. It forms a critical part of the Chinese lunar exploration project of the 2000s. The first two stages involved Chang'e-1, 2, 3, and 4 missions. 

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The initial launch for Changé-5 was scheduled for late 2017. However, there was a failure which caused a delay in the project. Changé-6 will be repurposed for a sample return mission. This is the case if things go as planned. 

The extended phase of lunar exploration will involve lunar landing missions. The goal is to establish an international lunar research station. This will create room for future crewed landings. The experience and technology from Changé-5 will create room for growth. This will help China to execute sample return missions. The missions will likely take place later in the decade. 

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