China Set to Launch a Mission to Bring Back Lunar Samples Back to Earth
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation have recently announced that they are planning to launch a new mission to collect and bring back samples from the moon back to Earth.
According to a report from the National Public Radio, the decision of China to launch another mission to the moon comes two years after successfully landing a rover on the moon's surface. China became the third country to land a rover on the moon, following United States and the former Soviet Union.
For the mission, China plans to send the Chang'e-5 lunar probe aboard the heavy-lift carrier rocket Long March-5. The launch is scheduled to be done in late November at Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan Province.
"With a weight of 8.2 tons, the lunar probe is comprised of four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander," said Ye Peijian, one of China's leading aerospace experts and a consultant to the program, in a report from CCTV News.
Lunar samples will be first taken by the lander and then put into a vessel in the ascender after the moon landing. Next, the ascender will takeoff from the moon to dock with the orbiter and returner orbiting the moon. The samples will then be transferred from the ascender to the returner.
The orbiter and returner will be the ones heading back to Earth. However, the returner will detached from the orbiter just a several thousand kilometer before re-entering the Earth.
If the mission is a success, it will become a myriad of first for China. It will be China's first automated moon sampling, first moon take-off, first unmanned docking in a lunar orbit about 380,000 km from earth, and first return flight in a speed close to second cosmic velocity.
China is also planning on launching Chang'e-4 lunar probe around 2018. The primary mission of the Chang'e-4 is to be the very first to have a soft-landing on the far side of the moon, conducting an in situ and roving detection and relay communications at earth-moon L2 point.