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China's Chang'e 5 lunar sample return spacecraft lands on on the Moon at UTC+8 23:13 1 Dec 2020

Chang'e 5 became the third Chinese lunar spacecraft to successfully soft-land on the Moon after Chang'e 3 in 2013 and Chang'e 4 in 2018
 

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Chang’e-5 successfully lands on moon to collect youngest lunar samples


HELSINKI — China’s Chang’e-5 has successfully landed on the moon in a major step towards obtaining the youngest lunar samples so far collected and delivering them to Earth.

The Chang’e-5 lander initiated a powered descent at 9:58 a.m. Eastern and successfully completed its soft landing near Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum (“Ocean of Storms”) 15 minutes later.

The lander will within a few hours begin collecting samples by drilling up to two meters into the lunar regolith, with a scoop to later take material from the surface. Liftoff of a small spacecraft atop the lander will take place in around 48 hours.

A waiting lunar orbiter will collect the samples from the ascent vehicle and deliver them to Earth around December 16.

The mission is the first lunar sample return attempt since the end of the U.S. Apollo and Soviet Luna missions in the 1970s. It is hoped the radiometric dating of samples brought to Earth will confirm the age of rock units theorized geologically youthful.

A relative lack of crater impacts observed in parts of this western edge of the moon suggest that it contains basaltic rocks created by late-stage volcanism which could be billions of years younger than those collected from Apollo and Soviet Luna landing sites.

“With the new age data, we can calibrate the crater counting method, being more precise for young events,” Dr. Lin Yangting, at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told SpaceNews. Additionally, scientists will conduct compositional, mineralogical and radioisotope analysis to ascertain “the nature of the young basalt and its mantle reservoir, in order to understand why the basalt erupted so [much] later.”

The four-module Chang’e-5 spacecraft launched on a Long March 5 rocket Nov. 23. It then embarked on a 112-hour to the moon and entered lunar orbit Nov. 28 before the spacecraft separated in preparation for the landing attempt.

The lander is carrying science, imaging and sampling equipment along with the small ascent vehicle designed to lift samples back into lunar orbit. An orbiting service module remains in a lunar orbit ready to receive the samples, a process requiring an exacting and time-critical automated rendezvous and docking with the ascent vehicle.

Tuesday’s lunar landing is China’s third, following the Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-4 missions which touched down in 2013 and 2019 respectively. Chang’e-4 also made the first ever landing on the lunar far side with the aid of a relay satellite positioned beyond the moon.

Chang’e-5: Next steps
Now on the surface, the Chang’e-5 lander has 48 hours to carry out its science and sampling activities and prepare the ascent vehicle for liftoff. 20 hours are set aside for collecting around two kilograms of lunar materials. These will consist of 0.5 kilogram samples from drilling and 1.5 kilograms scooped from the surface and placed in a container aboard the ascent vehicle.

Then follows perhaps the most challenging stages of the complex Chang’e-5 mission. The roughly 500-kilogram ascent vehicle will launch from atop the lander into a 15 by 185-kilometer orbit to meet up with the waiting service module, which is meanwhile performing phasing burns in lunar orbit. Around two days after ascent vehicle liftoff the two spacecraft will have a 3.5-hour window during which they must perform rendezvous and docking.

China has conducted rendezvous and docking operations, both automated and manually, in low Earth orbit using Shenzhou crewed spacecraft, Tiangong space labs and Tianzhou cargo vessels. This operation will however be taking place nearly 400,000 kilometers from Earth, bringing not insignificant light-time delay. It would also be the first ever robotic docking operation in lunar orbit.

After a successful docking the sample canister will be transferred from ascent vehicle to the reentry module attached to the service module. The ascent vehicle will then be jettisoned. The service module will spend 6-7 days in lunar orbit awaiting the optimal Earth return trajectory window for a reentry and landing at Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia 112 hours later.

The reentry vehicle will separate from the service module around 5,000 kilometers from Earth. A skip reentry, involving bouncing off the atmosphere—a maneuver tested by the Chang’e-5 T1 mission in 2014—to deal with the high-velocity return from the moon will follow. ESA tracking stations will support this critical phase as the spacecraft attempts reentry.

Samples will then be transferred to specially constructed facilities in Beijing and Hunan for handling, analyzing and storing the lunar material.

Fundamental questions
Bradley Jolliff, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, says that remote sensing evidence for unusual concentrations of thorium, uranium, and potassium in the landing area pose interesting questions pertinent to Chang’e-5. “These are radiogenic heat-producing elements and may help us to understand why volcanism was so prolonged and extensive in the western Oceanus Procellarum region.”

Additionally there is the possibility of the presence of “silicic volcanics” from the Mairan Domes in the collected material, which would provide added insight into potentially the complex lunar geology of the region.

Katherine Joy, a Reader in Earth Sciences at the University of Manchester, says the additional Chang’e-5 lander radar and imaging spectrometer instrument payloads will provide vital geological context for the returned samples. These will help “reveal the sub-surface nature of the landing site, for example, revealing the thickness of underlying soil and lava flows, and also the compositional diversity of the area.”

These will “help [us] understand if the samples returned to Earth are representative of the area in which they were collected.”

Joy and Jolliff state that development of robotic sample return technologies will assist in exploration of the moon, both as a step to crewed missions and providing ability to visit scientifically interesting areas which will not be targeted by human missions.

Backup mission, future goals
Chang’e-6 is a sample return spacecraft engineered at the same time as Chang’e-5 to provide a backup in the event of failure. Success of Chang’e-5 would however see Chang’e-6 repurposed for a landing at the lunar south pole around 2023.

China has stated it will then proceed into an extended phase of lunar exploration involving Chang’e-7 and further lunar landing missions. The aim will be to establish an ‘international lunar research station’ in the mid-to-late 2020s as a precursor to crewed landings.

Sample return technology and experience developed through Chang’e-5 is also to be utilized for planned near Earth asteroid and Mars sample return missions later in the decade. The complexity of the Chang’e-5 mission profile is considered by observers to be related to future crewed lunar landing ambitions.

“The Chinese space agency has demonstrated its capabilities several times now, and they have stayed on schedule with their ambitious plans for the past decade. They will probably do likewise with their manned exploration. I think we should cooperate in terms of the science. It’s a great way to do diplomacy,” says Jolliff.

 

skywatcher

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Chinese probe completes sample collection work on lunar surface

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Chinese officials said the Chang’e 5 mission finished drilling and scooping samples from a lunar lava plain late Wednesday, hours before the spacecraft’s robotic ascender was due to take off from the moon to begin the trip back to Earth.

The milestone signaled the start of the mission’s return voyage, which includes an ambitious series of automated maneuvers to blast off from the lunar surface Thursday and rendezvous with an orbiter circling the moon. Chang’e 5 will attempt the first-ever docking between two robotic spacecraft in lunar orbit, then transfer the moon rock container into the return craft.

If all goes according to plan, Chang’e 5’s sample container should re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to a landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region around Dec. 16.

Chang’e 5 completed its sample collection work on the moon around 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT) Wednesday, according to the China National Space Administration.

The lander touched down at 10:11 a.m. EST (1511 GMT) Tuesday in the moon’s Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, region in the northern hemisphere of the near side of the moon, east of a volcanic plateau named Mons Rümker.

CNSA said the lander deployed solar panels and a communications antenna after landing, then activated a panoramic camera, an instrument to analyze lunar soil structure, and a mineral spectrum analyzer to survey the alien landscape surrounding the spacecraft.

Data from the science instruments will provide a reference for scientists as they study the samples brought back by Chang’e 5, CNSA said in a statement.

The Chang’e 5 spacecraft completed the first phase of sample collection operations at 3:53 p.m. EST (2053 GMT) Tuesday, when officials said the lander finished drilling underground rock specimens and sealed the material inside a return carrier.

The next step in the mission’s two-day lunar stay involved using a scoop at the end of a robotic arm to gather material from the lunar surface. CNSA said the 19-hour sampling activity ended late Wednesday, Beijing time.

The spacecraft packaged and sealed the lunar material in a storage device carried by the Chang’e 5 ascender, which is scheduled to take off from the moon Thursday, using the mission’s descent stage as a launch pad.

CNSA also released a high-resolution panoramic image captured by a camera on-board Chang’e 5. The image shows one of the lander’s legs embedded in loose soil on the moon, a handful of rocks sitting on the surface, and a distant cluster of hills on the lunar horizon.

The Chang’e 5 mission’s goal was to collect more than 4 pounds, or 2 kilograms, of rocks for return to Earth. Chinese officials have not released an estimate of how much material the spacecraft gathered on the moon.

If successful, Chang’e 5 will become the first mission to retrieve material from the moon and bring it back to Earth since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

Chang’e 5 launched Nov. 23 and entered orbit around the moon Nov. 28 before the lander detached from the mission’s orbiter and return module to begin descent maneuvers.

The successful landing of Chang’e 5 on Tuesday marked the third time China has soft-landed a spacecraft on the moon, following the Chang’e 3 mission in 2013 and Chang’e 4 in 2019. Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to achieve a soft landing on the far side of the moon, a feat enabled by the placement of a purpose-built Chinese data relay satellite in deep space.

Chang’e 3 and Chang’e 4 carried rovers to serve as mobile scouts exploring the lunar landscape. Chang’e 5’s mission on the lunar surface has no mobile rover, and the craft is designed to complete its work in two days while in sunlight, rather than surviving the two-week super-cold lunar night.

Clive Neal, a lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said China had proven it can land on the moon with previous missions.

“But then they have to collect the sample,” Neal said in an interview shortly after Chang’e 5’s launch. “The interesting thing is they launch from the moon, get into lunar orbit, and then rendezvous with the Earth re-entry vehicle that will bring that sample back to Earth safely and uncompromised. When the Soviets did it in 1976, the last time, it was direct to Earth. They launched from the moon and came straight back to Earth. This one has an extra step in there, which has to go well in order for the sample to actually make it back.

“But given the capability they’ve demonstrated with doing things for the first time, such as the far side landing and roving, I expect things to be successful, and hope they are,” Neal said in an interview with Spaceflight Now.

“We have never done a whole process of taking and sealing samples,” said Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e 5 mission at the China Academy of Space Technology, in an interview aired on China’s state-run CCTV television channel. “This part of the work mainly depends on several complicated structures including the drill … the robotic arms used to scoop up rocks and regolith on the lunar surface, and actually a high vacuum sealing device designed to ensure that the sample can remain in its intact status.”

Scientists want to make sure the lunar specimens are sealed for the return to Earth to avoid contamination.

Another challenge will be Chang’e 5’s launch from the lunar surface, the first takeoff from the moon since the 1970s. The ascent module must launch on a precise trajectory to rendezvous with the return module in lunar orbit, and ground teams did not know the lander’s exact orientation on the moon’s surface until after touchdown.

“We need to precisely anticipate the location and speed of the two spacecraft flying (in) lunar orbit,” Peng told CCTV. “Because the probes don’t match in size — our ascender weighs just around 300 to 400 kilograms (660 to 880 pounds) during docking, while the (orbiter) weighs nearly 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds). Any error could knock off the smaller spacecraft, and that would make the docking job much more difficult than before.”

After transferring the samples to the Earth return spacecraft, Chang’e 5 will fire engines to break out of lunar orbit and head for home.

The return carrier will re-enter the atmosphere at some 25,000 mph, or 40,000 kilometers per hour, significantly faster than a re-enter from low Earth orbit.

Nine missions have returned moon samples to Earth, including NASA’s six Apollo missions with astronauts, and three robotic Luna spacecraft launched by the Soviet Union. NASA’s Apollo missions brought back 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of rocks from the moon.

There is evidence that rocks in Chang’e 5’s landing zone are much younger than those returned by the Apollo astronauts. Those specimens are some 3.5 billion years old, created during a period of active volcanism in the first billion years of the moon’s existence.

Lava plains to the east of Mons Rümker appear to be less battered by asteroid impacts, suggesting rocks there could be less than 2 billion years old. But models of the moon’s evolution suggest its internal heating should have diminished by that time, rendering volcanoes extinct, Neal said.

“It will be exciting to look at the age of these samples coming back and also the actual compositions of them,” Neal said.

“We haven’t returned samples form the moon in 44 years, since Luna 24, a long time ago,” said James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University, in an interview broadcast on China’s CGTN television network. “The best way to learn about the moon is by returning samples. That’s true for any planetary body because we can do analyses in the lab that are far superior than what we can do remotely or in situ.”

“Chinese scientists have said that samples from different ages are needed to form a complete picture of the moon,” Peng said. “Through analysis, they think the samples we will collect from the northwest region of Oceanus Procellarum are relatively young. By combining those samples with the previous ones, we will have a better understanding of the moon’s formation and evolution.”

 

skywatcher

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Super cool video! Watch Chang'e 5 takes off from lunar surface
View attachment 68879
Chinese spacecraft takes off from moon with samples
2020-12-03 23:31:46

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/03/c_139561693.htm

BEIJING, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese spacecraft carrying the country's first lunar samples blasted off from the moon late Thursday, the China National Space Administration announced.

This represented the first-ever Chinese spacecraft to take off from an extraterrestrial body.

China's Chang'e-5 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on Nov. 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon on Dec. 1.

After the samples were collected and sealed, the ascender of Chang'e-5 took off from the lunar surface, and is expected to complete automated rendezvous and docking with the orbiter-returner in lunar orbit, an unprecedented feat.

Chang'e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in Chinese aerospace history, as well as the world's first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.
 

skywatcher

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Chinese spacecraft takes off from moon with samples
2020-12-03 23:31:46

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/03/c_139561693.htm

BEIJING, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese spacecraft carrying the country's first lunar samples blasted off from the moon late Thursday, the China National Space Administration announced.

This represented the first-ever Chinese spacecraft to take off from an extraterrestrial body.

China's Chang'e-5 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on Nov. 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon on Dec. 1.

After the samples were collected and sealed, the ascender of Chang'e-5 took off from the lunar surface, and is expected to complete automated rendezvous and docking with the orbiter-returner in lunar orbit, an unprecedented feat.

Chang'e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in Chinese aerospace history, as well as the world's first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.
Chang'e 5 takes off from lunar surface at UTC+8 23:10 3 Dec 2020

gif
00686eaKgy1glb5mlrr41g30hs0a0x6r.gif
 

skywatcher

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China pushes ahead with super-heavy-lift Long March 9

HELSINKI — China is pressing ahead with the Long March 9 super heavy launch vehicle for crewed lunar, robotic deep space exploration and space infrastructure.

The massive rocket is in the research and development stage with a test launch planned for around 2030, said Xu Hongliang, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration, speaking at the Wenchang International Aerospace Forum Nov. 24.

The event followed the launch of the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission from the Wenchang spaceport that morning local time. The mission was launched by China’s current largest rocket, the 878-metric-ton, 57-meter-long Long March 5.

In contrast the Long March 9 will be 93 meters long, feature a 10-meter-diameter core, have a mass at liftoff of 4,140 metric tons. It will have four five-meter-diameter side boosters comparable to a Long March 5 first stage. The Long March 9 is designed be capable of lifting 140 tons to LEO or 50 tons to trans lunar injection.

The Long March 9 has long been stated as part of long term plans to send Chinese astronauts to the moon and facilitate deep space exploration. However the launcher’s exact role is still not clearly defined as China mulls pathways to robotic and human exploration of the moon.

Potential missions for the Long March 9 include a single-rocket Mars sample return, though a two-launcher profile using Long March 5 and 3B rockets may be preferred. Construction of a more tentative and technologically challenging space-based solar power project has also been slated as a possible task for the Long March 9.

The launcher is being developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), an institute belonging to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), a giant state-owned enterprise and the country’s main space contractor.

A presentation at the recent International Astronautical Congress CyberSpace edition reveals that China has made progress on the high-thrust engines required to power the Long March 9.

The first stage of the launcher will use four, dual nozzle 500 ton-thrust engines sometimes referred to as the YF-130. The assembly of the first YF-130 kerosene-liquid oxygen engine was completed in 2019 and ready for hot-fire test operation, according to Hui Chen of the Xi’an Aerospace Propulsion Institute, belonging to CASC.

Component technologies including high-power, high-efficiency turbopumps, high-pressure gas generators, wide-range thrust regulators, high-pressure and a large flow main LOX valve have all been verified.

The Long March 9 is not explicitly stated to be reusable. However a “space transportation roadmap” presented by CASC since 2017 features the stated goal of making all of China’s launch vehicles reusable by around 2035.

Xu also noted that China was developing a reusable Earth-space transportation system to improve Chinese access to space. China in September launched a secretive “reusable experimental spacecraft”, widely speculated to be a winged space vehicle.

Alternative—or parallel—heavy launcher?
Another heavy lift launch vehicle, using three, five-meter-diameter first stage cores and clusters of YF-100K engines, is also being proposed by CALT for use as a human-rated launcher for crewed lunar missions.

While an architecture for crewed lunar missions to the moon presented at the 2020 China Space Conference in September did not feature the Long March 9, the reasoning is that the latter is required for major infrastructure to be delivered to the lunar surface in order to facilitate longer term stays on the moon.

The new launcher for human deep space missions is not yet apparently approved. It could however receive formal backing with the introduction of a new Chinese Five Year Plan for the period 2021-2025.

 

skywatcher

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70% of the mission has been completed. the hardest part is automated rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit that is the very uncharted territory.
1.Soft landing
2.Sampling and sealing
3.Take-off from lunar surface

4.Automated rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit(No country has ever done it before)
5.High speed re-entry
 

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