The Chinese capsule with 2 kg of lunar land on it landed safely

In the mission the Chinese achieved a number of milestones including the first lunar sample, the first takeoff from a body in outer space, the first encounter and mooring in the lunar orbit and the first spacecraft that carried samples and entered the Earth’s atmosphere

Chang-5 re-entry capsule at Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia, December 16, 2020. Photo: CNSA / CLEP

The return capsule of the Chinese lander Chang’e-5 landed on Earth in the early hours of Thursday, bringing with it the first specimens of China collected from lunar soil.

The spacecraft landed in Siziwang in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China at 1:59 p.m. Beijing time, (06:59 Israel time).

The National Space Agency of China (CNSA) reports on the success of China’s current three-stage lunar exploration program for launching spacecraft into orbit, landing and returning samples, which began in 2004.

One of the most complex tasks

Chang’e-5 is one of the most complex and challenging missions in China’s space program history. The spacecraft, which includes the spacecraft, lands, an element that takes off from the moon, and an element that lands on Earth was launched on November 24, and its ascending lander combination landed in the north of Mons Ramer in the Ocean Prosularum, also known as the ocean of storms, on the near side of the moon on December 1.

In the mission the Chinese achieved a number of milestones including the first lunar sample, the first takeoff from a body in outer space, the first encounter and mooring in the lunar orbit and the first spacecraft that carried samples and entered the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. The soil samples brought by Chang’e-5 are the first since 1976.

The capsule, which contained about 2 kilograms of lunar material from the ground and excavated at a depth of 2 meters, was located shortly after landing. The purpose of the mission was to collect rock samples that are considered billions of years younger than hitherto delivered by Soviet Apollo and Luna missions.

While the samples will be transferred to a specially built laboratory in Beijing for preparation, analysis and storage, Chang’e-5 has been able to validate technologies for take-off from the moon and automatic landing and mooring in the lunar orbit. This success paves the way for planned missions to return more samples from both asteroids and Mars in the next decade, as well as manned landings on the moon in the 1930s.

Chang’e-5 was launched on November 23 and entered orbit around the moon 112 hours later. The samples were collected a few hours after landing on November 1, and the take-off vehicle transferred the collected material to orbit around the moon.

This is an unprecedented automatic encounter in the lunar orbit and docking with the mission service module two days later allowed the transfer of 2 kg of material into the return capsule. The mission was the most complex in China so far and in general in terms of robotic space exploration.

Prepared for a backup mission, the Chang’e-6 spacecraft will now be given a new purpose – landing at the lunar South Pole or the South Aitken Arctic. The mission will include donations from the French Space Agency – CNES. Verification of the age of the samples will confirm hypotheses that certain regions of the moon experienced volcanic eruptions later in the geological history of the moon, and analysis of the composition of the materials could provide insights into the causes of this eruption.

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