China’s Chang’e-5 mission has successfully scooped in lunar samples and is heading back home. The Chinese spacecraft, which was launched on November 23, landed on the moon’s surface on Tuesday. It then lifted off from the surface on Thursday.
“The small probe, which sat on top of the Chang’e 5 lander, lifted off from Oceanus Procellarum at 10:10 EST Thursday (15:10 GMT/23:10 Beijing time) carrying with it the first fresh lunar samples since 1976,” a report in Space.com said.
WATCH SAMPLE COLLECTION VIDEO HERE
The 49 seconds-long video of the touch down was shared by a Twitter user. It was captured by a camera placed underneath the Chang’e 5 lander. It recorded the process as the lander passed over the vast Oceanus Procellarum (“Ocean of Storms”) while aiming for a safe landing site on Tuesday.
Chang'e-5 has been busy scooping and drilling for samples from the landing site in Oceanus Procellarum. Here's gif of the scoop arm in action, placing material into the sample container. pic.twitter.com/jq0hbJwV20
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) December 2, 2020
Here’s another video of the touch down and sample collection released by ‘Mission of China’.
— Mission of China (@ChinaEUMission) December 1, 2020
The Chinese mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, was launched with an aim to collect 2 kg of lunar samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.
The mission is expected to help scientists learn more about the satellite’s origins.
If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.
EN ROUTE EARTH
After touching down on the Moon and colecting the required samples, the spacecraft lit its engine, ready to carry the samples back to home Earth. Only 6 minutes later, the spacecraft reached the moon’s orbit, “marking a huge milestone in the Chang’e 5 mission”.
The ascent vehicle is now expected to meet with the Chang’e 5 orbiter while still circling the Moon.
The vehicle will then “transfer its precious cargo to a return capsule for the journey home”, the Space.com report said.
That next stage is an extremely challenging “rendezvousing” between the small ascent vehicle and the Chang’e 5 orbiter while orbiting the Moon.
The two spacecraft will begin a final approach and if all goes well, China will then prepare for the final leg of the journey to deliver the first lunar samples to Earth in 44 years.
But, the samples won’t be coming home immediately.
“The Chang’e 5 spacecraft will need to wait in lunar orbit for a number of days for a narrow window in which to fire its engines and head for Earth,” the report said.
The journey back to Earth will take 112 hours — just over four and a half days — before the reentry attempt.
The entire mission is scheduled to last around 23 days, according to the space administration.