Successful sampling of the Moon.

China’s Chang’e-5’s ascender is ready for departure from the Moon later today, hauling into lunar orbit a cache of specimens picked up and packaged from the Ocean of Storms.

Landing leg of Chang’e-5 lander.

The processes of drilling and packing rocks and soil from beneath the lunar surface finished at 4:53 am on December 2, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said, and the mechanical arm was still gathering surface samples.

Samples onboard ascender.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Immediately after the successful lunar touchdown, the Chang’e-5 hardware began the collection work using two methods: drilling and surface collecting. Hauling back to Earth some 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of Moon specimens was the goal of the Chang’e-5 mission.

The packaging and sealing work was performed on the Moon to ensure intact samples are not affected by the external environment when returning to Earth.

Drilling into the lunar surface.

Smoother than expected

Ren Junjie, a researcher at the National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center said the entire lunar surface sampling process went smoother than anticipated. In the entire meter sampling process, a dozen samples were carried out. The container for the meter sampling was filled, and the sampling task was finished ahead of schedule.


The Chang’e-5 lunar lander is equipped with multiple payloads including a landing camera, panorama camera, lunar regolith penetrating radar and lunar mineralogical spectrometer, which detects lunar surface topography and mineral composition, as well as the Moon’s shallow subsurface structure.

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission will attempt to haul back to Earth samples of the Moon.


Before the sample drilling process, the lunar regolith penetrating radar analyzed the subsurface structure in the sampling area, offering data reference for sampling.

According to one report, the Chang’e-5 lunar probe was also to directly measure charged lunar dust, expected to reveal the secret of floating lunar dust.

Ascender departs lunar surface with samples. Credit: New China TV/Inside Outer Space screengrab



Express package

After the ascender speeds into lunar orbit using its 3,000-newton-thrust, it will merge with the orbiter and returner combination and deliver the “express package” of lunar specimens to them. The orbiter/returner capsule is in lunar orbit at an average altitude of about 124 miles (200 kilometers).

Autonomous rendezvous and docking between ascender and orbiter.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The orbiter-reentry combination capsule will then return to Earth orbit, where the pair will break up, and the reentry capsule skims the Earth’s atmosphere to slow down. This series of complicated maneuvers leads to return of the capsule in mid-December, to a preset landing site in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

High hopes

Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of Chang’e-5 probe with the China Academy of Space Technology, said they hold high hopes that the samples collected will open new perspectives for lunar scientists.

“China’s scientists said it requires samples from different (geologic) ages to piece together the full history of the Moon,” Peng told China Central Television (CCTV). “Analysis has shown that the samples we could gather from the designated northwest area of the Ocean of Storms are rather new. Together with the more ancient samples, we could gain a better knowledge of the formation and evolution of the Moon,” he said.

Gao Lei, an official from the China National Space Administration’s lunar exploration program, said the Chang’e-5 mission technologies will also prove to be helpful in similar future operations.

“One of our main missions of planet exploration is sample collecting and their usage. So I think the technologies that we’ve used this time will prove useful for other sample-collecting missions in the future, whether it’s on the Moon, Mars, or other planets,” Gao said.

Go to these new videos for Chang’e-5 mission progress:

Hong Kong University Makes Key Contributions to China’s Lunar Mission

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