Friday, November 08, 2019

China to Launch Lunar Sample Return Mission in Late 2020

China is aiming to launch its complex Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission in late 2020, following launch vehicle-related delays.

The ambitious mission is now scheduled to launch atop the fifth Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket. The mission will launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center situated on Hainan island.

Chang’e-5 will attempt to collect and return around two kilograms of lunar samples from a site close to Mons Rümker, a volcanic formation situated in the Oceanus Procellarum region of western edge of the near side of the moon.

The mission will involve the first robotic lunar orbit rendezvous. After the lander collects samples, an ascent vehicle will liftoff and dock with an orbiter module above the moon. A return capsule will then perform a ‘skip reentry’ following separation from the orbiter close to Earth. The return capsule will deliver the samples to the same site as where the country’s Shenzhou crewed missions land.

The complexity of the mission is considered by observers to be related future crewed lunar landing ambitions. The last lunar sample return, the Soviet Union’s 1976 Luna 24 mission, utilised a much simpler direct return approach.

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