Long March-5 at the launch pad. Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) insignia: a lunar crescent with two footprints at its center. The symbol resembles the Chinese character for “Moon.”
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China is marching forward on the launch next week of the Chang’e-5 lunar mission – a complicated undertaking to haul back to Earth samples of the Moon.

Chang’e-5 spacecraft being readied for its lunar sample return mission.
Credit: CCTV via Andrew Jones screengrab

In preparation, south China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center rolled out to the launch pad the lunar probe’s carrier rocket, the Long March-5.

China space tracking ship sails for Chang’e-5 mission
Credit: China state-affiliated media

China’s second-generation space tracking ship, Yuanwang-3, departed on November 19 to support the Chang’e-5 mission.

Four-part spacecraft

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft weighs over eight tons and is comprised of four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander.

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

The lander will collect the lunar samples, place those collectibles in a vessel aboard the ascender, which will dock with the orbiter and returner that is circling the moon. The samples will then be transferred to the returner. After separation, the returner re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, expected to parachute into north China’s Inner Mongolia in mid-December.

Practice session for upcoming launch of Chang’e-5 mission.
Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The robotic mission goal is to land on the Moon then haul back to Earth some 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar regolith, possibly from as deep as 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the lunar surface.

If the mission is successful, China will become the third country in the world that is capable of bringing back samples from the Moon – after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Chang’e-5 is the first robotic lunar sample return mission since the Soviet Union Luna 24 mission returned samples from Mare Crisium in 1976, 44 years ago. 

Simulation of Long March-5 launch has been carried out by a network of centers.
Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Joint exercise

Meanwhile, a lunar exploration mission joint exercise before a projected November 24 launch has been carried out.

Technicians practice for next week’s launch of the Chang’e-5 mission.
Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The exercise to debug and practice control tasks involved the Beijing Flight Control Center, the Wenchang Space Launch Site, Xi’an Satellite Measurement and Control Center, and the Yuanwang Survey Fleet. During this joint exercise, the flight control center simultaneously inspected the execution of multiple tasks.



Go to this CCTV-Plus video (in Chinese):


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