China confirms landing site for Chang’e-5 Moon sample return

China just confirm landing site for Chang’e-5 Moon sample return return mission, which is set to launch in late November.he Chang’e-5 lander will set down near Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum, a large area of lunar mare in the northwest region of the Moon.

The lander, one of four units making up the Chang’e-5 probe, will then collect around 2 kilograms of samples of lunar regolith and rock from a depth of up to 2 metres in preparation for return to Earth.

More on Chang’e 5

Chang’e 5 (Chinese: 嫦娥五号 Cháng’é wǔhào) is an unmanned Chinese lunar exploration mission currently under development, which is expected to land on the Moon by 2017.Chang’e 5 will be China’s first sample return mission, aiming to return at least 2 kilograms of lunar soil and rock samples back to the Earth. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e.

This will be the first Lunar sample-return mission since Luna 24 in 1976.Liu Jizhong, director of the China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), confirmed the planned landing area to press at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017), running from June 6-8 in Beijing.There are understood to be seven candidate sites within the area, from 41 to 45 degrees North and 49 to 69 degrees West.

 

Rollout of the first Long March 5 in October 2016 (China Daily/Su Dong).

Selecting one of the sites in particular would mean China will return the youngest lunar basaltic samples so far, with spectral analysis from Chandrayaan-1 Moon Mineralogy Mapper data indicating a surface age of around 1.33 billion years old.

Chang’e-5 will be the first such mission since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976. However, instead of heading directly back to Earth, China’s mission will be much more complex.

An ascent module will lift off from atop the lander and dock with a service module in orbit around the Moon, nearly 400,000 kilometres away from Earth. The samples will be transferred to the reentry capsule, which itself will separate from the service module closer to Earth before reentry and landing.

The decision to undertake a complex sample return mission suggests that China is interested in gaining experience for future human landings on the Moon, and a Mars sample return mission.

Chang’e-5 is due to launch on a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre, with the launch window opening on November 29.

Sun Weigang, chief engineer at the the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), said in a keynote session on Chang’e-5 at GLEX 2017 that a range of tests, including simulated launch, landing, take-off and sampling, have demonstrated the effectiveness of the mission plan.

The mission will also be assisted with ground station support from the European Space Agency for launch and landing, and cooperation may also be extended to analysis of samples once back on Earth.

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