Chinese Capsule Starts Its Journey Back To Earth With The Moon Rocks On Board!

ByMike Paul

Jan 2, 2021

In more than four decades, a Chinese space capsule that brings back the early moon rocks began its return to earth. The lunar Chang’e 5 sample refused the orbit of the moon Sunday morning and triggered four motors for 22 minutes, according to social media posts from the China National Space Authority. An earlier month the project landed at the moon and obtained nearly 2 kilograms of samples. In the Inner Mongolia area, the return capsule will arrive in Northern China after 3 days. The substance was first recovered after the Luna 24 survey of the Soviet Union in 1976.

The event occurred

In the crucial next phase of the ambitious Chang’e 5 mission to carry lunar samples to Earth, China launched a small spacecraft out of the moon’s surface. At 10:10 EST Thursday (15:10 GMT/23:10 Beijing time), the tiny sample, which stood at the top of the Chang’e 5 lander, lifted the first fresh lunar sample with it since 1976. 

The lunar orbit was entered six minutes later, a major achievement in the Chang’e 5 mission of returning lunar samples to Earth. The task of the ascent vehicle now is to reach the Chang’e 5 orbiter and then move its useful cargo to a capsule to return home for the trip. The next step is an exceedingly complex meeting-room and docking around the moon between the tiny uphill spacecraft and the Chang’e 5 orbiter. The operation must be automated by the time it takes to interact between the Earth and the Moon for nearly 236,000 miles.

Mission explained

Sometime on Saturday (Dec. 5), two spacecraft will launch their final approach and finish their docking 3.5 hours later. If it is all well, China is poised to send the first lunar samples to the Earth in 44 years, for the final stage of the journey. However, the lunar samples will not arrive automatically. Chang’e 5 will have to wait for a few days in the lunar orbit for a small window where its motors and head for the earth can be launched. The careful scheduling of this injecting maneuver in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia — the same space used by the China National Space Administration to return astronauts to home aboard the spacecraft — allows the spacecraft to bring the reentry module to Earth at the right time.

It takes 112 hours—slightly longer than four and a half days—for returning to Earth before re-entry. As spaceships from the moon return quicker than those from the lower earth’s orbit, such as journeys from the ISS, the Chang’e 5 re-entries module will once restore the atmosphere to make it slow down until it makes a final, fiery dive onto the Earth. Chang’e 5 started Nov 23 with a rocket launch from Southern China on a Long March 5 rocket to capture and carry lunar samples home. Four and a half days later, the probe reached the moon.

The lander Chang’e 5 made its impressive landing on December 1 and started to take photos, capturing samples of the moon with a scoop and a box almost immediately. Within 19 hours after landing and transportation to the uphill truck, a special container for the lunar samples was filled and sampled.

Mike Paul

Mike was one of the founding members of DMR, he was a pivotal figure in the early stages of DMR. Mike has since left the team to pursue his career in software development.

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