Monday, 25 Oct, 2021


China's Chang'e-5 mission returns Moon samples

Technology Desk |
Update: 2020-12-17 12:03:16
China's Chang'e-5 mission returns Moon samples [photo collected]

China's Chang'e-5 mission has returned to Earth with the cargo of rock and "soil" it picked up off the Moon.

A capsule carrying the materials landed in Inner Mongolia shortly after 01:30 local time on Thursday (17:30 GMT, Wednesday).

It's more than 40 years since the American Apollo and Soviet Luna missions brought their samples home.

The new specimens should provide fresh insight on the geology and early history of Earth's satellite.

For China, the successful completion of the Chang'e-5 venture will also be seen as another demonstration of the nation's increasing capability in space.

Recovery teams were quick to move in on the returned capsule. It was first spotted by helicopters using infrared cameras. Support staff following up in SUVs planted a Chinese flag in the snow-covered grassland next to the module.

The Chang'e-5 venture was launched at the end of November.

A probe comprising several elements was sent into orbit around the Moon. These elements then separated, with one half going down to the lunar surface.

The lander system used a scoop and a drill to dig up samples. It's not clear how much, but possibly in the range of 2-4kg.

An ascent vehicle subsequently carried the materials back into lunar orbit where they were transferred to an Earth-return module. This was shepherded home by a fourth element and released just before it had to make the fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere.

Returning from the Moon, the Chang'e-5 module would have been moving much faster than, say, a capsule coming back from the International Space Station.

Engineers had chosen to scrub some of this extra energy by doing an initial "skip" in the atmosphere. This saw the module briefly dip into the gases that shroud our planet, before then plunging much deeper to try to reach Earth's surface.

The Chang'e-5 capsule was targeted to float down on parachute to Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia. This is the same location used to bring Chinese astronauts home.

Again, infrared cameras were on hand to follow the action by detecting the heat of the module.

Source: BBC

BDST: 1203 HRS, DEC 17, 2020

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