The returner of the Chinese Chang’e-5 probe, which carries the precious soil and rock collected from the moon, is about to conclude his journey and land in Siziwang Banner, in northern China’s Inner Mongolia.
The ground team at the landing site was fully prepared for the historic task after multiple simulation exercises, according to the search and recovery team from Tuesday’s mission.
The team comes from the Chinese Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Although the task – the final step of the Chang’e-5 mission – has returned to Earth, it is still fraught with challenges and difficulties.
1. Landing a small spacecraft in a large area possible
The landing site at Siziwang Banner was where Chinese manned Shenzhou spacecraft landed. However, the size of Chang’e-5’s return is only one seventh of a spaceship’s return capsule, while its possible landing area is 16 times larger than the latter. This means that the research work could be much more difficult.
2. Returner landing on snowy ground on a cold winter night
It is now winter in Inner Mongolia and the landing site has been covered in snow.
The return is expected to land at night, which adds to the difficulties for the research work. During the simulation exercises, high-powered projectors were installed on helicopters and land vehicles to help them find their target quickly.
3. Complicated landing site conditions
It has been four years since the last search and recovery mission was conducted at the Siziwang Banner landing site, which has undergone major changes since then. Many new structures have been built here, such as cable fences, high voltage transmission lines and base stations for mobile communications.
To ensure the safe landing of the helicopters and the timely arrival of the research vehicles, the team carried out nearly 30 topographical surveys of the possible landing area. Obstacles such as wire towers and wind measuring towers have been reported, as well as special landforms such as ravines and ponds.
In the last simulation exercise, after receiving the sixth landing forecast from the mission command center in Beijing, two groups of personnel – one with helicopters and one with ground vehicles – simultaneously headed to the intended landing point. The air team arrived quickly and the ground team helped with the orderly recovery work.