The Chang’e 5 mission has already taken off from the Moon and carries the first samples collected in 50 years. At 16:10 this afternoon, Spanish time, the ascent module, barely a few hundred kilograms in mass, started its engine and left the satellite for lunar orbit, which it arrived six minutes later.
The module now has the objective of meeting a ship in orbit and transferring its cargo to a capsule back. This will allow the samples to land on Earth and be collected in the Mongolian desert, in the middle of this month.
As reported by « Space.com», The encounter between the ascent module and the spacecraft in orbit, which will take place on Saturday, is extremely complex, since it requires that both ships synchronize their orbits, and that they do it automatically, in a time that cannot exceed 3.5 hours to be successful.
If all goes well, China will become the first country to collect samples from the Moon since 1976. The Chinese space agency (CNSA) is hopeful that the samples will allow it to do decades of research, at a time when NASA aims to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024 and to take advantage of lunar resources.
After the ascension ship and the Chang’e 5 mission orbit ship meet, they will have to wait several days in the orbit of the Moon until they find a window of opportunity, a situation that allows their return to Earth efficiently. To do this, you will have to start your engines and perform a maneuver trans-Earth or trans-terrestrial injection.
After a 112-hour journey, the Chang’e 5 cargo will be ready to “re-enter” the Earth’s atmosphere and drop in a controlled manner in Inner Mongolia, in an area used by the CNSA to pick up its taikonauts.
The Chang’e 5 mission began on November 23, when a heavy rocket «Long March 5» took off from southern China. The spacecraft entered lunar orbit four and a half days later.
The mission’s descent module touched down on December 1, and immediately began collecting samples, at a depth of up to two meters. Once the container was filled, 19 hours later, the cargo was transferred to the ascent module that took off this afternoon.