Chang’e-5’s orbiter/returner.
Credit: CNSA


China’s ground teams are preparing for the landing of Chang’e-5 probe’s returner at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The return capsule is filled with roughly 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar samples gathered from Mons Rümker, an isolated volcanic formation that is located in the northwest part of the Moon’s near side.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Recovery teams face heavy snow and bitter cold in the region.

“All the preparatory work at the designated landing area for Chang’e-5 probe’s returner is ready, and we are both confident and capable to complete the searching and retrieving mission of the returner successfully,” said Bian Hancheng, a director at the designated landing area for the Chang’e-5 mission in a China Central Television (CCTV) interview.

Ready to head home – Chang’e-5 orbiter/returner.

The return capsule will carry out maneuvers within the Earth’s atmosphere to slow down, a final part of the mission that mimics a tossed stone skipping across water.

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Search and retrieval

The Global Times — an English-language Chinese newspaper under the People’s Daily — reports that processed radar data will be transmitted to the helicopters and vehicles designated to carry out the search operation and guide them to return capsule. They are also equipped with high-power searchlights to facilitate the search process.

Following a circumlunar voyage in 2014, a return capsule parachuted to Earth. This test was a prelude to China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission.
Courtesy: China Space

Prior to the capsule’s touchdown, the search and retrieval team have conducted some 30 terrain surveys in frosty night time conditions at the landing region, the Global Times story explains, pinpointing 100 communication towers and more than 2,800 herders’ points, providing valuable information for commanders to make decisions.

Complicated and challenging

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has stated that all systems on the orbiter/returner combination that carries lunar specimens are currently in good condition. They will separate from each other at a point around 3,106 miles (5,000 kilometers) from Earth.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Map notes projected Chang’e-5 reentry capsule trajectory, produced by satellite tracker, Scott Tilley.
Credit: Scott Tilley

The Chang’e-5 mission involved four components, an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, and was launched on November 24. The lander-ascender combination touched down on the Moon on December 1.

Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions undertaken in China’s growing space agenda. Given successful return of its stash of lunar collectibles, it will be the first robotic lunar sample return mission since 1976 – the former Soviet Union’s Luna-24. It collected 170 grams of dust and rock and returned them to Earth.

Go to this newly issued video showcasing the recovery operation at:

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