China’s Chang’e 5 Mission

Crystal Kalin

On November 23rd, China’s spacecraft Chang’e 5 launched to the moon, went into lunar orbit, and successfully landed on December 1st. Over the next few days the spacecraft is modeled to collect dirt and bring the sample back to earth, making China one of the first countries to bring samples back from the moon since 1976. On November 23rd China’s space launch center launched the Chang’e 5 mission and the spacecraft’s journey lasted approximately 112 hours, until Chinese space engineers reported that the craft had successfully entered orbit around the moon.

China’s first Chang’e mission actually began all the way back in 2007, when their Chang’e 1 spacecraft was the first to travel beyond Earth’s orbit. China then launched Chang’e 2, 3, 4 and now 5. All attempts were ultimately aimed to bring samples from the moon back to the Earth. According to Brett Denevi, a planetary geologist at John Hopkins, “understanding the age of the samples will be a leap forward for planetary science.” Although bringing any sample from the moon would be a huge accomplishment for China, the goal is to return a sample of lunar rocks from the moons youngest surface, Oceanus Procellarum. By accomplishing this task China would become one of the first countries to bring moon samples successfully.

Each one of China’s Chang’e spacecraft are designed for specific operations. If the Chang’e 5 mission is successful, China plans to release the Chang’e 6 to launch in 2023 and will be redirected to the south pole to collect other samples. China’s Chang’e mission doesn’t end just at Chang’e 5, in fact, three more Chang’e missions and robotic scientific research stations are planned by 2035. Not only is China sending robots to the moon but, Beijing hopes to eventually send a manned mission to Mars. This mission includes sending astronauts back to the moon by 2030. If China succeeds in this mission, it would become the second country in the world to put a human on the moon.

Although China’s moon mission is daring, geologists are glad to see how their hard work has paid off. Geologist Xiao Long said that seeing the rocket take off made him so excited that he teared up saying that their accomplishment will “greatly encourage people, especially the younger generation, to study and explore the worlds beyond our Earth.” As far as we know the mission is receiving communications support from the European Space Agency to track the spacecraft’s journey to ensure that the spacecraft returns the samples as planned. For now, everybody is on edge to find out if the Chang’e 5 mission will be successful so that China can continue it’s extraordinary moon mission.