Chinese Spacecraft Set to Bring Samples From Unexplored Part of the Moon

China is going to travel to a previously unexplored part of the moon where a spacecraft will land, collect samples, and bring them back to Earth. 

According to reports from Chinese News Agencies, the Chinese Space Administration is set to launch a new mission to the surface of the moon, one which is set to land on a previously unexplored lunar part, where it would collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

The new mission dubbed Chang’e 5 is set to land in a region that has never yet been visited by astronauts nor spacecraft, and scientists expect the lunar mission will bring back to earth around one kilogram of lunar samples.

Quoted by China Daily, Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e 5 probe at the Chinese Space Technology Academy, said the spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Long March 5 rocket (a heavy lift lunch system), the largest and most powerful at the disposal of the Chinese Space Agency China from the Wenchang launch center later this year.

The spacecraft is expected to land on the northwestern part of the Oceanus Procellarum (Latin for “Ocean of Storms“), a large lunar plain on the western edge of the near side of the moon.

“This particular landing site was selected because it has never been reached by man or rover and also because scientists are interested in the geological history of that place,” Peng explained to China daily.

Compared to previous Chinese lunar missions, the upcoming Chang’e 5 mission is expected to be much more sophisticated.

Its first task will be to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

The 8.2 metric ton probe has four components: orbiter, landing module, ascending module and reentry module.

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Gravity anomalies (red) bordering the Procellarum region overlaid on a global elevation map. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.
Gravity anomalies (red) bordering the Procellarum region overlaid on a global elevation map. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

After the probe reaches the lunar orbit, the components will be separated into two parts, with the orbiter and the re-entry module remaining in orbit while the landing module and the ascending module make their way towards the surface of the moon.

The landing module and the ascending will then attempt a soft landing. If all goes to plan, the robots will then begin analyzing the lunar surface. The spacecraft are expected to use a mechanical drill to explore the subterranean rocks, and a mechanical arm to collect various samples that will eventually be brought back for study to Earth.

Once the exploratory mission on the lunar surface are completed, the ascending module will make its way into lunar orbit and dock with the re-entry module.

It will transfer the lunar samples to the module, which will then take them back to Earth.

If the mission is successful, it will make China the third nation to bring lunar samples to Earth, after the United States and Russia, and will also make Chang’e 5 the world’s first lunar sample return mission in more than four decades.

Although the Chang’e 5 mission is expected to bring back at last one kilogram of lunar samples, the exact quantity of samples returned to Earth will depend on a number of factors.

“The quantity of samples it will bring back depends on many factors, such as the landing site’s geology. We hope that it can collect at least 1 kg, and if everything goes well, it may bring 2 kg or even more,” Peng said.

“The samples will be distributed to scientists for research on topics including the moon’s physical composition, geological traits, and shallow structures, which will consequently help with the understanding of the moon’s evolution.”

In addition to the Chang’e program, Peng revealed three’s been talk about two or three lunar missions that could work on creating a simple scientific outpost on the moon, which would be able to accommodate astronauts for a shorter stay on the lunar surface.

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