Chang’e-5 mission: a success for the Moon landing of lander and ascent vehicle

The Moon's surface seen by the Chang'e-5's lander, including its shadow (Photo courtesy China National Space Administration/CLEP)
The Moon’s surface seen by the Chang’e-5’s lander, including its shadow (Photo courtesy China National Space Administration/CLEP)

It was night in China when the lander and ascent vehicle of the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission successfully completed their Moon landing maneuvers. The various modules that make up Chang’e-5 were launched when it was November 24 in China and reached the Moon’s orbit in recent days. At that point, a series of maneuvers begun to make its orbit circular, the modules that were scheduled to land separated, and everything went well. Very soon, the lander was scheduled to begin its excavation work to collect soil and subsoil samples that will be sent into orbit to be returned to Earth around mid-December.

The Chang’e-5 mission is of high profile because it aims to bring back lunar samples from the Mons Rümker area, in the Oceanus Procellarum, in the northern hemisphere of the Moon side facing the Earth. For this reason, the launch was broadcast live on television, including on an English-language channel broadcast internationally. On the contrary, the Moon landing took place without television coverage, on the contrary in China there was a sort of media blackout in the last phase of the maneuvers. Only when it was ascertained that the outcome was positive did the official press releases arrive, accompanied by some pictures.

The limited information provided by the Chinese authorities makes it difficult to provide precise schedules for the next stages of the Chang’e-5 mission. The lander is programmed to work for about two days to take the samples to be sealed in the ascent module that will probably take off from the Moon on Thursday to begin a series of maneuvers that will lead it to rejoin the orbiter. It will begin other maneuvers that will culminate with the separation of the last module, the one that will return to Earth with the samples.

It’s normal that in a mission of this type there’s a certain flexibility in the programming of the various phases, the problem is precisely in the limited communications from the Chinese. With unofficial information, second-hand or even third-hand, providing accurate reports is difficult. This means that we must hope for timely news of the outcome of the Moon samples collection and their transport. The various modules of the Chang’e-5 mission must work perfectly, separately and together. For now they have worked perfectly.

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