China National Space Administration(CNSA) successfully launched the Changzheng 5 rocket. On board was the automatic station "Chang'e-5", which in the next 23 days will land on the moon, collect soil samples and send them to Earth. This is the first mission of this kind for China - previously only the USA and the USSR managed to get lunar soil. A long time has passed since then and this the first such mission in the last 44 years... The sent station consists of five modules,each of which performs one important task. As part of this article, I propose to work out together what each module is for, how the apparatus will collect lunar soil, and when the samples will return to Earth.
Launch and operation of the Chang'e-5 station
The Guardian reported about the successful launch of the Changzheng-5 rocket with the Chang'e-5 lunar station. The spacecraft consists of four modules with a total mass of about 8 tons. At the very bottom is located service module, which provides a flight from near-earth orbit to circumlunar and back. As soon as the Chang'e-5 station approaches the Moon, it will separate from the service module. descent module, equipped with cameras and a drill for mining up to 2 kilograms of lunar soil from a depth of two meters.
After mining, lunar soil samples will be placed in takeoff module... It will fly back to circumlunar orbit and connect to the service module. This module will deliver the cargo back to Earth and, at a distance of 5 thousand kilometers from the planet, will drop soil samples inside return capsule straight into the atmosphere. Thanks to its robust body, the capsule should keep the collected soil intact. It is expected to make a soft landing using parachutes. This will happen at the end of December 2020.
See also: What is regolith and why does China fly behind lunar soil?
Why do you need to collect lunar soil?
Soil samples will be taken from the volcanicarea in the Ocean of Storms. Therefore, the device will have to land not far from the 70-km Rumker Peak volcano. It is located on the northwestern part of the visible side of the moon. The researchers expect the Chang'e-5 station to take samples of soil about 1.2 billion years old. Such soil is much younger than the samples that were mined during missions organized by the United States and Russia in the second half of the 20th century. It is believed that the collected data will help scientists learn more about the stages of the origin of the Moon and Earth.
If the Chang'e-5 station successfully completes itstask, China will become the third country in history to extract and deliver lunar soil to Earth. After that, the CNSA space agency plans to send the Chang'e-6 station to the moon. He will try to collect soil samples from the polar region of the earth's satellite. These samples can be very different from any previously mined. For example, he probably has a completely different age and scientists will be able to find out even more information about the evolution of the planets of the solar system.
The last time humanity delivered lunar soilto Earth as part of the Soviet mission "Luna-24". The eponymous interplanetary station was sent on August 9, 1976. Having reached the earth satellite, the device extracted soil samples from a depth of two meters. Ultimately, after studying samples on Earth, the presence of water on the Moon was proven. Similar results were obtained in the American projects Clementine in 1994 and Lunar Prospector in 1998.
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Lunar soil samples were first delivered toEarth in 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. They are stored at Johnson Space Center and were stolen in 2002 by a NASA intern named Ted Roberts. He and his girlfriend stole 270 kilograms of moon rocks and intended to sell them on the black market. And their cunning plan would be very profitable, because such stones could get about $ 21 million. But Ted Roberts was caught on time and imprisoned for 8 years. More about this story and other "dirty" secrets of the NASA aerospace agency, we told in this article.