Chang’e-5: China’s Moon Sample Return Mission

How Chang’e-5 works

No spacecraft has returned a pattern of the Moon to Earth because the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. Chang’e-5 undertook this problem utilizing an structure just like NASA’s Apollo missions. The spacecraft consisted of four items: a service module, a lander, an ascent automobile, and an Earth return module. In lunar orbit, the lander and ascent module descended to the floor whereas the service module and Earth return module remained in orbit. The lander collected 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds) of samples utilizing a mechanical scoop and a drill that would burrow 2 meters underground. 

The Chang’e-5 lander additionally carried three scientific payloads. A set of cameras documented the touchdown web site, a ground-penetrating radar mapped the subsurface, and a spectrometer studied the mineralogical composition of the touchdown web site to calculate how a lot water is locked within the lunar soil. Scientists will be capable to evaluate these readings with the samples they examine again to Earth.

Relying solely on solar energy, Chang’e-5 landed within the lunar morning and blasted the ascent vehicle again into orbit earlier than dusk—a interval of roughly 14 Earth days. The ascent automobile rendezvoused with the service module and transferred the samples into an Earth-return capsule. The service module jettisoned the ascent vehicle, left lunar orbit for Earth, and launched the Earth-return capsule shortly earlier than arrival.

Autos reentering Earth’s ambiance from the Moon journey a lot quicker than these coming back from low-Earth orbit: about 11 kilometers per second versus eight kilometers per second. Whereas human-rated automobiles like NASA’s Apollo capsule relied solely on robust heat-shielding, Chang’e-5 carried out a “skip reentry,” bouncing off the ambiance as soon as to decelerate earlier than plummeting to a touchdown in Interior Mongolia. The touchdown web site was the identical used for returning crewed Shenzhou spacecraft.

After dropping off its Moon samples at Earth, Chang’e-5 left for the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1 (L1), the place Earth and the Solar’s gravity steadiness in a manner that spacecraft can stay secure for lengthy durations of time. This location is especially well-suited for photo voltaic observations; Chang’e-5 will conduct expertise checks to assist engineers plan future missions there. The spacecraft might later transfer to L4 or L5 to seek for near-Earth asteroids.


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