China rolls out Long March 5 rocket to launch Chang’-5 lunar sample return mission

Helsinki – China has launched a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket in preparation for the launch of the complex Chang’-5 lunar sample return mission early next week.

The nearly 878-metric-ton heavy-lift Long March 5 was moved from an assembly building to its launch area late Monday evening in a process that took about two hours.

The launch of the 8.2-metric ton Chang’a-5 spacecraft from the coastal Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is now expected on 24 November. The state media reports have so far only confirmed that it will launch in late November.

A successful mission would make China the third country to carry lunar specimens to Earth, following the American Apollo crew program and Soviet robot Luna missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

Preparations for launch in Wenchang have been going on ever since mid September. Fourth and recent Long March 5 mission rocket successfully Launched Tianwen-1 Mars spacecraft in July.

The failure of the second Long March 5 launch in July 2017 meant a three-year delay for Chang’-5, scheduled to launch later that year.

Mission Landing Site, Deadline

The Chang’-5 landing will target a site close to Mons Rumer, a volcanic formation located in the Oceanus Procellarum region on the western side of the moon. Maintains the status of geological units 1.21 billion years old. Apollo is 3.1 to 4.4 billion years old by comparing samples brought to Earth by astronauts.

Ahead of the landing attempt, the sunrise over Mons Rumor will take place on 27 November. The mission intends to collect about 2 kg of samples by drilling to a depth of up to two meters and filtering the surface material.

Unlike China’s ongoing, multi-lunar-day Chang’-4 spacecraft, which is equipped with radioisotope heater units that will survive the extreme cold of the lunar night, the Chang’-5 landing and sampling are all in one, about 14. Will have to take place within – Earth Day Lunar Day.

After sampling, there will be an intricate climb, automatic lunar orbit decoration and transfer of materials consisting of separate climbing and service modules. The service module will then return to Earth by a high-velocity capsule returning to the Earth’s atmosphere.

The mission is expected to last approximately 23 days from launch until landing in Sijiang Banner, Inner Mongolia, around 16–17. The samples will then be transferred to specially developed facilities for handling, analyzing and storing lunar material.

Landing area selected for Chang’-5 lunar sampling return. Sincerely: Phil Stuke

major challenges

Chang’e-5 is the third phase of the Chinese lunar exploration project, designed in the early 2000s. Orbiters Chang’a-1 and 2 and later the landing and raising mission Chang’a-3 and 4 marked the first two phases.

Yu Dengyun, deputy chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, told state media in September that the mission is more challenging than previous missions.

New challenges include sampling and following steps. “Gravity on the Moon is about one-sixth different from that on Earth. And in such a situation, how to package samples is a major issue of the mission. We have never tried this before.

“We usually completed rockets launched on Earth at a certain point. We have a proven technology in this field. But we still have difficulties with the lift-off of the ascending vehicle, which is expected to happen on the lander… We have never done this before, ”Yu said.

Chang’-6 is a sample return spacecraft similar to Chang’-5 to provide a backup in the event of a failure. The success of the latter would however reappear Chang’-6 to land on the lunar south pole around 2023.

China has said that it will be involved in an extended phase of lunar exploration Chang’e-7 And lunar landing missions ahead. Its purpose will be to ‘establish’.International Lunar Research Station‘As a precursor to crew landing in late 2020.

The sample return technique and experience developed through Chang’a-5 is also to be used later in the decade employed for Earth asteroid and Mars sample return missions. The complexity of the Chang’a-5 mission profile is considered by observers to be related to the lunar landing ambitions of the future crew.

China's Chang'a-5 spacecraft is undergoing testing.
China’s Chang’a-5 spacecraft is undergoing testing. Credit: CCTV / FrameGrab

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