Chang’e-5 Mission: China | 25 Nov 2020

Why in News

China has launched an unmanned spacecraft to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the Moon in four decades.

  • The Chang’e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect lunar material to help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.

Key Points

  • Launch: The Long March-5 Y5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-5 spacecraft, was launched from Wenchang Space Launch Center (China).
  • Key Task of the Mission: To drill 2 meters beneath the moon’s surface and scoop up about 2 kilograms of rocks and other debris to be brought back to Earth.
    • It will help scientists learn about:
      • Moon’s origins,
      • Volcanic activity on its surface and its interior, and
      • When its magnetic field, key to protecting any form of life from the sun’s radiation dissipated.
  • Functioning:
    • Upon entering the moon's orbit, the spacecraft is intended to deploy a pair of vehicles to the lunar surface, a lander and an ascender.
    • A lander will drill into the ground, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender that will lift off and dock with an orbiting module.
      • There will be an attempt to collect 2 kg of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.
      • Area of the moon where the spacecraft is due to land is 1-2 billion years old.
    • If this is successful, the samples will be transferred to a return capsule that will return them to Earth, with a landing in China's Inner Mongolia region.
    • The entire mission is scheduled to take around 23 days.
  • Significance: If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, joining the United States and the Soviet Union.
    • The Apollo programme (which first put men on the moon), the United States landed 12 astronauts over six flights from 1969 to 1972, bringing back 382 kg of rocks and soil.
    • The Soviet Union Lead Luna: Deployed three successful robotic sample return missions in the 1970s. The last, the Luna 24, retrieved samples in 1976 from Mare Crisium, or “Sea of Crises” - a lunar basin.
    • The Apollo-Luna sample zone of the moon, while critical to our understanding, was undertaken in an area that comprises far less than half the lunar surface.
    • Subsequent data from orbital remote sensing missions have shown a wider diversity of rock types, mineralogies and ages than represented in the Apollo-Luna sample collections.
  • China’s Moon Missions:
    • China made its first lunar landing in 2013.
    • In January 2019, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any nation’s space probe.
      • Chang’e is a series of lunar probes launched by China National Space administration.
  • China’s Other Space Plans:
    • It aims to have a permanent manned space station in service by around 2022.
    • Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region of the moon.
      • It is to be developed through the Chang’e-6, 7 and 8 missions through the 2020s.
  • Other Important Mission to Moon: