Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab


The ascender of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission successfully rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter-returner spacecraft segments in lunar orbit, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Sunday.

Samples collected from Oceanus Procellarum were transferred from the ascender to the returner. The orbiter-returner has now separated from the ascender, and is waiting for the right timing to return to Earth.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“According to Beijing’s real-time data, monitoring and judging, the sample transfer is completed normally. The returner hatch is closed, and the following work will continue according to the flight control plan,” said Liu Jiangang, chief dispatcher of Chang’e-5 mission Beijing base in a China Central Television (CCTV-Plus) interview.

Credit: CNSA/CLEP 



Launched on November 24, the Chang’e-5 mission consists of an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner.

On December 1, the lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms.

On December 3, after lunar samples were collected and sealed, the Chang’e-5 ascender rocketed off the Moon to join up with the orbiter/returner segments.

Meanwhile, all the data gathered by the scientific payloads on China’s Chang’e-5 probe has been sent back to the Earth. Researchers are now busy analyzing the data about the landing site.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Science payloads

The lander of the Chang’e-5 carried four science payloads to the moon, including a landing camera, a panoramic camera, a lunar soil structure detector and a lunar mineralogical spectrometer.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“During the landing process, the landing camera snapped multiple photos of the lunar surface. After that, the other three payloads started to work and collected lunar surface data for scientific research,” said Fu Qiang, the chief designer of the Operation and Management Subsystem of the Chang’e-5 mission ground application system in a CCTV-Plus interview.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Soil structure

Fu said that the lunar soil structure detector explored the soil before and after the drilling of samples, collecting information about the difference of the soil structure several meters under the lunar surface.

The panoramic camera took multiple panoramic photos of the landing site before and after the collection of lunar surface samples. Over 700 photos of the lunar surface were obtained.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“During the collection of lunar surface samples, the lunar mineralogical spectrometer conducted a dozen full-spectrum explorations of the sampling site, the rocks and the lunar surface soil,” Fu added. “It also completed a full-field multispectral scanning for the sampling site. So far, all the scientific data has been sent back to the Earth and our research team is processing and analyzing the data.”

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Rock sizes

Ren Xin, the director designer of Chang’e-5 mission ground application system, said a panoramic image was created by stitching together 120 photos taken by the panoramic camera after the landing and before the collection of lunar surface samples.

“By enlarging the image, we can see a crater on the left which has a rough surface with a lot of gravel, which means the crater is quite young,” Ren added. “In other areas, we can also find that the surface is quite rough with rocks of different sizes. This is different from the lunar surface images sent back by Chang’e-4 and shows that the age of the lunar surface at Chang’e-5’s landing site is younger than that of the Chang’e-4.”

The orbiter and returner successfully separated from the spacecraft’s ascender.
Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Earth return

The orbiter and returner combination of China’s Chang’e-5 probe successfully separated from the spacecraft’s ascender at 12:35 Sunday (Beijing Time), according to the CNSA.

Credit: CCTV-Plus/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“After its separation from the ascender at noon, the orbiter-returner combination will orbit the Moon for about six to seven days, then enter the Earth-moon transfer orbit, and experience another three to four days’ flight before returning to Earth,” said Gao Lei, an official of CNSA’s lunar exploration program told CCTV-Plus.

The returner of the mission is expected to release the sample-carrying capsule for a landing at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in mid-December.

Go to these new CCTV-Plus videos:

Chang’e-5 beams back data gathered by scientific payloads at:

The Chang’e-5 ascender’s rendezvous and docking with the orbiter-returner can be viewed at:

Video showing release of ascender at:

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