A photograph from the Chang'e 5 lander-ascender of the Chinese flag on the Moon. Credit: CNSA/CLEP

China Lands on the Moon and Plants its Flag in Latest Lunar Mission

China's Chang'e 5 mission planted the first Chinese flag on the surface of the Moon.

The Chang’e 5 robotic expedition, which landed successfully on the Moon on December 1, quite unexpectedly drove the Chinese flag into the lunar regolith. With this, China became only the second country after the United States to unfurl a canvas flag on the lunar surface.

I remind readers that between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts made a total of six manned lunar landings, and after each of them the American flag was unfurled.

Of course, the Soviet space program also sent communist symbols to the moon, but experts believe that Soviet expeditions never unfurled a Soviet cloth flag because their organizers preferred titanium pennants with a strong ceramic coating. After all, the “victory of communism had to be eternal” which is something a regular flag cannot guarantee.

The unfurling of the flag during the “Chang’e 5” mission took place late – not immediately after the descent on December 1. Instead, it happened shortly before the departure with the collected samples.

The Chinese agency also published a brand new panorama from the Chang'e 5 mission where the Chinese flag is also visible. Credit: CNSA/CLEP
The Chinese agency also published a brand new panorama from the Chang’e 5 mission where the Chinese flag is also visible. Credit: CNSA/CLEP

The flag display system is curious. The whole small construction weighs only 1 kilogram and is 1.5 meters high. It includes a pyrotechnic deployment mechanism, a compression release device, and the weightless flag. And truly, it only weighs 12 grams.

According to experts, this flag should retain its true colors even under extreme conditions. It will not change its appearance even in massive temperature differences up to 150 degrees Celcius. In other words, if temperatures rise or fall with this much, the flag should remain the same.

Simply said, while the flag itself looks thin and simple, it is highly technological.

Chang’e 5 Mission Summary

If I remember the original estimates, the Chang’e 5 mission is actually ahead of its schedule. The sample-collecting process was estimated to take less than 48 hours but the lander-ascended completed this task in less than a day.

All samples have been packed into the regular vacuum container, as expected. Upon returning, Chang’e 5 should return about 2 kilograms of lunar soil. However, as far as I understand it, there is no guarantee that the lander was able to successfully extract this amount. It has happened before that similar missions have failed to deliver the expected amount, resulting in something I consider a failed mission.

We also need to mention the successful Hayabusa2 mission (at least the first part of the whole mission) which delivered samples from the asteroid Ryugu this past Saturday.

As for Chang’e 5, two days ago, the lander-ascender successfully completed the first lunar orbit docking since the last Apollo mission. This, itself, is a major success and something that obviously hasn’t happened in decades. It is also the first time a Chinese spacecraft has landed and ascended from an extraterrestrial body.

Upon returning the samples to the orbiter, the Chang’e 5 lander completed its mission and now it has been confirmed that it has crashed back on the Moon. This was done on purpose as it could have become space junk that could potentially be a problem for future missions to the Moon.

Currently, the Chang’e 5 orbiter is waiting for a suitable moment to begin its trans-Earth injection which would return it to our planet safely. The original plans included a return sometime on December 16 but we will see when the agency will initiate the re-entry of the spacecraft. The whole process should take between 4 and 5 days in total.


Update:

The Chang’e 5 mission was a great success. The Chinese lunar mission successfully succeeded in returning a plethora of lunar soil samples back to Earth where scientists are already studying the material. Previously, the last lunar materials were brought back to earth more than 4 decades ago as American and Soviet missions recovered lunar soil samples.

It is believed that The Soviets and the American lunar mission brought back to Earth nearly 400 kilograms of lunar rocks and soil samples.


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Sources:

• CNSA.Gov. (n.d.). Retrieved December 08, 2020, from http://www.cnsa.gov.cn/english/n6465652/n6465653/c6810775/content.html?fbclid=IwAR0Z_b3S2gZPtrAGzemD2txFjf0NCS4XR_2xWn3PIAlGI2NaIcsibTce5IQ

• 8, A., & Jones, A. (2020, December 08). Chang’e-5 spacecraft smashes into moon after completing mission. Retrieved December 08, 2020, from https://spacenews.com/change-5-spacecraft-smashes-into-moon-after-completing-mission/

• David, L. (2020, December 07). China plants its flag on the moon with Chang’e 5 lunar lander (photo, video). Retrieved December 08, 2020, from https://www.space.com/china-flag-on-moon-chang-e-5-lunar-landing?fbclid=IwAR1l7pjRyi1CQ1udpCW6LoitWiem_bTIPUqyibbWGLZ62Wuf10yQ3m1-LVo

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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