Chang’e 5 The return capsule carrying monthly samples heads to a Beijing lab for opening, with a team of researchers looking forward to the chance to start studying fresh moon specimens.
Concidering the success of the monthly exploration mission, China’s space officials say the next step is to cooperate with scientists from other nations to analyze the moon’s evidence.
China is to set up a request for a monthly analysis of the samples, with a team of domestic and foreign scientists organized to consider requests for evidence.
China per month! A history of Chinese monthly missions in pictures
Zhang Kejian, head of China’s National Space Administration (CNSA), said Chang’e 5 was a success. The mission completed the current three-stage monthly exploration, orbiting and retrieval program in China, which began in 2004, Chinese space officials said.
“Now that the return of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft has returned with monthly soil samples, an important step forward is to conduct extensive cooperation with scientists from other countries in conducting in-depth studies of the monthly soil,” Zhang said. said in an interview China Central Television (CCTV).
Chang’e 5 has laid the groundwork for the Chinese team’s future lunar and space exploration efforts, which will include building a research base on the moon if all goes according to plan.
“We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the International Monthly Scientific Research Station, which could provide a common platform for monthly scientific exploration and technological experiments,” said Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Center for Space and Lunar Exploration Programs. CNSA, according to CCTV.
Search and retrieval teams
On Wednesday (December 16th), the return capsule separated from the orbiting Chang’e 5 spacecraft / return under ground control while over the Atlantic Ocean, according to the CNSA. The capsule entered the Earth’s atmosphere and, after aerodynamic deceleration, jumped out again. The capsule then re-entered to perform a second aerodynamic deceleration.
The capsule’s parachute opened about 10 kilometers above the ground, and the boat landed in a predetermined area of Inner Mongolia. Search and retrieval teams found him in short order.
An aerial helicopter team saw the capsule using infrared cameras, while a ground crew followed the SUVs to reach the snow-covered landing site. Ground crews surrounded the area, confirmed contact details and set up a communications station to connect to the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.
“We just measured the shape of the crater on which the revenge landed, which is part of the collection of scientific data. [put on a] “New warm coat” to prevent the freezing of fuel left inside during transport to Zhurihe Airport, from where the engine will be ejected from [the] returner, “said Cao Ruiqiang, a space insurance assistant. in a CCTV interview.
The Chang’e 5 capsule was loaded onto a truck and then transported by helicopter and plane to Beijing.
Related: We may be in a “golden age” of space missions to return the sample
The monthly laboratory
Chang’e 5 was designed to bring back 4.4 lbs. (2 kilograms) of monthly samples. The mission consists of four modules – an orbiter, a lander, an ascendant and a returner.
The multi-phase mission released on November 23rd. On December 1, its lander-ascending combination reached the north of Mons Rümker in the Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, in the nearby part of the moon.
In Beijing, CNSA will transfer the monthly materials to the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO) Monthly Samples Laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a facility that was built specifically for the storage, processing and analysis of samples.
“The biggest challenge is to unseal the test package in the atmosphere, which is sealed in a vacuum environment. [on the moon]”Zhang Guangliang, chief designer of the Earth Applications System of the third phase of the Chinese monthly exploration project, said in a CCTV interview.” To address this, we checked several times and designed a special process. We will unpack the samples in a vacuum medium and transfer them to a nitrogen medium for storage and processing. ”
Methods of analysis
“The first thing we consider is to use as many damage-free analysis methods as possible, such as observing optical characteristics under a microscope and spectral measurement in the laboratory,” said Zhou Qin, also identified as the chief designer of the Application System. on the ground of the third phase of the Chinese monthly exploration project, in a CCTV interview.
“Of course, these measurements will be performed and analyzed in a special environment, such as high-purity nitrogen, so as to minimize the impact of the Earth’s environment on the monthly samples,” Zhou said. “In addition, we will perform analyzes of the chemical composition, which will cause damage. We will perform comprehensive analyzes and try to obtain more useful information with the smallest amount of sample.”
You can view recently released videos focused on the Chang’e 5 return capsule here, here and here.
Leonard David is the author of the recently released book, “Moon Rush: The New Space Race” published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has reported on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. This version of the story published on Space.com.