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Wednesday, December 02, 2020, 18:04
China's Chang'e 5 probe collects moon samples
By Zhao Lei
Wednesday, December 02, 2020, 18:04 By Zhao Lei

This photo taken at Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows an image of China's Chang'e 5 robotic lunar probe landing on the moon on Dec 1, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BEIJING - China's Chang'e-5 robotic lunar probe has collected moon samples, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Wednesday.

The lander-ascender combination of Chang'e-5 finished the tasks of moon sample drilling and packaging at 4:53 am Wednesday.

It gathered samples from the moon's surface as planned.

After successfully landing on the near side of the moon late Tuesday, Chang'e-5 carried out preparation work, including unfolding solar wings, before collecting the samples.

The probe adopted two methods of moon sampling, including using drills to collect samples and gathering samples from the surface with a mechanical arm.

Chang'e 5 touched down on the lunar surface at 11:11 pm, becoming the third spacecraft to land on the moon in the 21st century

Chang'e 5 is expected to work for about two days in a region to the north of Mons Ruemker, a mountain overlooking a vast lunar mare called Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, on the western edge of the moon's near side. After the surface operations are completed, it will bring about 2 kilograms of lunar samples back to Earth in mid-December, 44 years after the last substances from the moon were returned to Earth, according to the China National Space Administration.

As the landing procedures began as scheduled at 10:57 pm, the lander-ascender combination of the 8.2-metric ton Chang'e 5 started its 7,500-newton-thrust engine to reduce its flying speed and began to descend toward the moon from about 15 kilometers above the lunar surface.

ALSO READ: China's Chang'e 5 probe prepares to land on moon

When the lander-ascender reached an altitude of 2.5 km, it conducted a rapid positional adjustment and continued approaching the lunar surface.

During the engine-assisted process, cameras on the lander-ascender took pictures of the landing site and transmitted them to computers to identify possible hazards on the surface such as large rocks so the craft could maneuver to avoid them.

This photo taken at Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows an image of China's Chang'e 5 spacecraft landing on the moon (top) and a photo of the surface of the moon (bottom). In Beijing, on Dec 1, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The lander-ascender suspended its descent when it was about 100 meters from the moon and hovered for a short time to carry out accurate detection of obstacles before continuing to descend at a slower, steady speed.

Chang'e 5 is expected to bring about 2 kilograms of lunar samples back to Earth in mid-December

At the last moment of the challenging operation when the craft was several meters above the surface, its engine stopped and it touched down on the lunar surface at 11:11 pm, becoming the third spacecraft to successfully land on the moon in the 21st century. The other two craft that had achieved this feat-Chang'e 3 and 4-were also from China.

READ MORE: Chang'e 5 embarks on journey to new frontier

After landing, it embarked on tasks such as using a technically advanced drill to retrieve rocks from 2 meters beneath the lunar surface and gathering soil from the surface with a mechanical arm.

This photo taken at Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows an image of the landing process of China's Chang'e 5 spacecraft. In Beijing, on Dec 1, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China's largest and most sophisticated lunar probe, Chang'e 5 was launched by a Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket on Nov 24 at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, undertaking the world's first mission since 1976 to return lunar samples to Earth.

The spacecraft has four components-an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a reentry capsule.

Before landing, Chang'e 5 separated into two parts-the orbiter-reentry capsule combination and the lander-ascender combination-early on Monday morning.

While the lander-ascender has started surface operations, the orbiter-reentry capsule is in lunar orbit at an average altitude of about 200 km above the moon, according to the space administration.

READ MORE: Orbiter, lander split as mission advances

This photo provided by the China National Space Administration shows an image of the moon's surface taken by a camera mounted on China's Chang'e 5 spacecraft during its landing process. (PHOTO / CHINA NATIONAL SPACE ADMINISTRATION)

After the collection and packing operations are completed, a 3,000-newton-thrust engine on the ascender will lift it to rendezvous and dock with the reentry module. It will transfer the lunar samples to the module and then separate from it.

READ MORE: Chang'e 5 launched to fetch moon samples

If the mission is successful, it will make China the third nation to bring samples back from the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

With Xinhua inputs

zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn


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