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December 1, 2020

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Chang’e-5 set for moon landing

CHINA’S Chang’e-5 probe is preparing for a soft landing on the moon to undertake the country’s first collection of samples from an extraterrestrial body.

The lander-ascender combination of the spacecraft separated from its orbiter-returner combination at 4:40am yesterday, according to the China National Space Administration.

Launched on November 24, Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history, as well as the world’s first moon-sample mission for more than 40 years.

The spacecraft is performing well and communication with ground control is normal, the administration said. The four modules have worked in pairs and will have a tight schedule this week.

The lander-ascender combination is waiting for a perfect timing for a soft landing on the moon. The orbiter-returner will continue orbiting about 200km above the lunar surface and wait for rendezvous and docking with the ascender.

The landing operation is expected in three days. Once it touches down on the lunar surface, the lander will collect 2 kilograms of lunar samples. It will shovel some surface material, drill a 2-meter-deep hole and extract the soil from inside it, which will act as an archive of the moon, with the bottom recording information from a billion years ago, and the top more closely reflecting the present day.

Once the samples are secured, the ascender will take off from the lunar surface to transfer the moon samples to the reentry capsule waiting in lunar orbit, which will then carry them back to Earth.

The sampling work and the takeoff of the ascender from the lunar surface need to be completed within 48 hours, according to Liu Jiangang, chief of the command team in Beijing.


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