On 24 November China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft blasted off to the moon in a historic mission that saw China attempt to become the first nation since 1976 to successfully bring samples of lunar rock back to earth.
Now, it looks as though the Chang’e-5 spacecraft has moved one step closer to achieving that goal after it entered orbit around the moon on 28 November. The Chinese space agency reported the news after the spacecraft successfully fired its main engine at a distance of 400 kilometres away from the moon. Chang’e-5 fired its 3,000-Newton engine for around 17 minutes in total, which allowed the spacecraft to slow down enough to be captured by the moon’s gravity.
THIS. IS. JUST. AWESOME. !!!
This is video decoded from the 8455MHz high rate downlink @uhf_satcom received yesterday. All the work on the decoder and data analysis really paid off in the end!
Video shows solar panel of Chang’e-5 glistening in the sun and dust floating around. pic.twitter.com/FKc92kgskl
— r00t (@r2x0t) November 25, 2020
The Chang’e-5 spacecraft is equipped with a lander that features a drill and a scoop which will be used to collect around 2 kilograms of lunar material that will then be placed a container aboard an ascent vehicle atop the lander, according to reports from Space.com.
The accent vehicle will then attempt to rendezvous and dock with the orbiter module waiting in lunar orbit after the material has been collected. If the Chinese space agency is able to land and collect lunar samples before successfully sending them back to Earth, they would be the first to do so since the Soviet Union in 1976.