Beijing: Chinese ground teams are awaiting the return of a lunar probe that brings back the first fresh samples of rock and debris from the moon in more than 45 years.
The Chang’e probe is expected to land in the Siziwang district of the vast Inner Mongolia region at the end of Wednesday or early Thursday. On Wednesday it fired its engines to set it on course before the orbiter separated from the return vehicle, with all systems functioning as expected, the China National Space Administration said.
Recovery of the return vehicle will be complicated by its small size, darkness and heavy snow, state media reported. Plans call for it to perform an initial bounce on Earth’s atmosphere to reduce its speed before crossing it and floating on parachutes, making it difficult to accurately calculate where it will land, Bian Hancheng, a leader of the official Xinhua News Agency recovery team, quoted as saying. He says.
State broadcaster CCTV showed four military helicopters standing Wednesday morning at a base in the snow-covered meadows. Ground vehicle crews will also try to refine the signals. Though enormous in size, the area is relatively familiar due to its use as a landing site for Chinese manned Shenzhou spaceships.
Chang’e 5 landed on the moon on December 1 and collected about 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) of samples by collecting them from the surface and drilling 2 meters (about 6 feet) into the lunar crust. The samples were deposited in a sealed container which was returned to the return form by a lift vehicle.
Flying a Chinese flag, the lander ceased to function immediately after being used as a launch pad for the elevator, which was ejected from the orbiter after transferring the samples and stopped on the lunar surface.
The return of the spacecraft will mark the first time scientists have obtained new moon rock samples from the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 robotic probe in 1976.
Chang’e 5 took off from a launch base in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan on November 23 on a mission that is expected to last 23 days.
It marks China’s third successful lunar landing, but the only one to take off from the moon again. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, became the first spacecraft to land on the little-explored side of the moon and continues to send data on conditions that could affect humans’ prolonged future stay on the moon.
The moon has been a focal point of the Chinese space program, which says it plans to land humans there and possibly build a permanent base. No history or other details have been announced.
China has also joined the effort to explore Mars. In July, it launched the Tianwen 1 probe, which carried a robot lander and rover in search of water.
The Chinese space program proceeded with greater caution than the US-Soviet space race of the 1960s, which was characterized by deaths and launch failures.
In 2003, China became the third country to send an astronaut into orbit alone after the Soviet Union and the United States.
The latest flight includes collaboration with the European Space Agency, which is helping monitor the mission. Amid concerns about the secrecy of the Chinese space program and close military ties, the United States bans cooperation between NASA and CNSA unless Congress gives its approval.
This prevented China from taking part in the International Space Station, something it sought to compensate for with the launch of an experimental space station and plans to complete a permanent orbiting outpost within the next two years.
The rocks and debris reported by Chang’e 5 are believed to be billions of years younger than those obtained by the United States and the former Soviet Union, offering new insights into the history of the moon and other bodies in the solar system.
They come from a part of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, near a site called Mons Rumker which was believed to be volcanic in ancient times.
As with the 382 kilograms (842 lbs) of lunar samples carried by US astronauts from 1969 to 1972, they will be analyzed for age and composition and likely shared with other countries.