Chang'e 5

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Chang'e 5

NSSDC ID 2020-087A
Mission goal Earth moon
Client CNSA
Launcher Long March 5
Takeoff mass 8.2 t
Course of the mission
Start date 23 November 2020
launch pad Wenchang Cosmodrome
23 November 2020 begin
November 28, 2020 Entry into lunar orbit
1st December 2020 Landing on the moon
3rd December 2020 Start back from the surface of the moon
5th December 2020 Coupling with the orbiter
December 13, 2020 Orbiter leaves lunar orbit
December 16, 2020 Landing of the return capsule on earth

Chang'e 5 ( Chinese 嫦娥 五號 / 嫦娥 五号, Pinyin Cháng'é Wǔhào ) is an unmanned space probe from the People's Republic of China for lunar exploration, which was launched on November 23, 2020 at 8:30 p.m. ( UTC ). On December 1, 2020 at 3:11 p.m., the probe landed northeast of the Mons Rümker volcanic massif in Oceanus Procellarum . Chang'e 5 is China's first return mission ; she brought about two kilograms of moondust and rock samples to earth. It is the first return mission for lunar samples since the Soviet Luna 24 missionin 1976. The probe was built by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e .


The Lunar Program of the People's Republic of China , officially launched on January 24, 2004 by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao after thirteen years of preparatory work, consists of the Three Great Steps (大 三步):

  1. Unmanned exploration
  2. Manned landing
  3. Stationing a permanent crew

The Chang'e 5 mission concludes the First Great Step, which in turn is divided into the Three Little Steps (小 三步):

  1. In the First Little Step , Chang'e 1 entered lunar orbit in 2007 and Chang'e 2 in 2010.
  2. The second small step involved landing on the moon and exploring with a rover . This phase includes the Chang'e 3 mission (2013) and the Chang'e 4 mission to the back of the moon in January 2019.
  3. In the third small step , 5 samples were collected with Chang'e from the earth-facing side of the moon, which are to be brought to earth. With Chang'e 5-T1 the entry of the re-entry capsule into the earth's atmosphere from a lunar orbit had already been successfully tested.

These missions are intended to prepare a manned moon landing in the 2030s and, in the distant future, a permanently occupied moon base on the southern edge of the South Pole Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon. For example, people are thinking about extracting oxygen from the iron (III) oxide in the surface material of the moon .

Course of the mission

The 8 m high probe had a total takeoff weight of 8.25 t, of which 5.45 t was diergoler fuel . The probe consists of four modules:

  • the lander who was supposed to collect about 2 kg of rock,
  • a connected ascent stage that brought the samples back into lunar orbit,
  • the orbiter to which the ascent stage docks with an automatic rendezvous maneuver,
  • the re-entry capsule that returns the samples to Earth.

The Langer Marsch 5 was chosen as the launch vehicle . After an accident with this rocket on July 2, 2017, the already fully tested and ready- to-launch probe was stored in a hall of the development and production base for oversized spacecraft of the Chinese Academy for Space Technology in Tianjin . In early March 2020, the probe was checked and retested.

Start and swing into a lunar orbit

The launch vehicle at launch

On November 23, 2020 at 20:30:12 UTC (November 24, 04:30:12 local time), the probe took off from the Wenchang Cosmodrome . In addition to the requirements resulting from the relative position of the earth and moon, and the protection from the solar wind that the mass of the globe offers the rocket at night, one of the reasons for the choice of the launch window long after midnight was the weather on Hainan. At this time there is relatively little wind and there are hardly any changes in the weather. The cloud cover is thinnest before sunrise, which means less attenuation for the transmission of telemetry data on the microwave band. The thin cloud cover makes it easier to track the path with telescopes, and it is also easier to monitor the shape of the engine flames for error analysis in the event of accidents at night than with a bright sky in the background.

After the separation of the first stage, the second stage ignited and brought the probe into a parking orbit, where it remained inactive for a short time. Then the second stage re-ignited and brought the probe to transfer orbit to the moon. After two scheduled orbit correction maneuvers on November 24th and 25th, the probe arrived at the moon on November 28th, 2020 after a flight time of 112 hours. At 12:58 UTC, at a distance of 400 km from the lunar surface, the orbiter's 3 kN engine was ignited for 17 minutes. As a result, the probe slowed down to less than the escape speed(2.3 km / s) of the earth's satellite, it was pulled by the moon into its gravitational field and swiveled into an elongated orbit with an orbit time of eight hours as planned. After three orbits the moon, another braking maneuver took place on November 29 at 12:23 UTC and the probe was lowered into a circular orbit at an altitude of 200 km. The orbit inclination to the equator of the moon was also slightly changed.

Moon landing

Chang'e landing site 5
The landing site 20 km west of the Rima Sharp moon groove near the Louville massif ω
Landing site Chang'e 5 (moon equatorial region)
Chang'e landing site 5
position 43.1 °  N , 51.8 °  W Coordinates: 43 ° 6 ′ 0 ″  N , 51 ° 48 ′ 0 ″  W.
Landing site of Chang'e 5 near the Louville ω massif (spoken: Louville Omega) west of the
Rima Sharp moon groove
LRO image from December 2, 2020 with the lander and the ascent level on it

Oceanus procellarum in the northwest lunar region was designated for sampling. In addition to practical considerations such as the relatively flat terrain, which enables a safe landing, and the good solar radiation, i.e. sufficient energy supply, it is hoped that this landing site will provide a better insight into volcanic activity on the moon. After analyzing soil samples brought back by Soviet probes and Apollo astronauts from areas further east, it was assumed that the maximum of volcanic activity was reached 3.5 billion years ago, but then from the beginning of the Eratosthenic Ageslowly weakened 3.15 billion years ago. However, more recent observations from orbit suggest that active volcanoes may have existed a billion or two ago. If larger amounts of the heat-generating radioactive elements uranium and thorium were to be found in the soil samples returned by Chang'e 5, this would improve our understanding of those processes and the internal structure of the moon .

Since the temperature on the lunar surface fluctuates between 127 ° C in direct sunlight and −183 ° C during the lunar night, the engineers working with project manager Lai Xiaoming (赖小明) feared that the shoveling and drilling rigs with their mechanical arms would expand and contract as a result of the Metal could be damaged. Therefore one tries to carry out the whole mission within one lunar day.

On November 27, 2020 , the sun rose at the intended landing site, the Mons Rümker volcanic mountain massif . On November 29, 2020 at 20:40 UTC, the lander with the ascent stage mounted on it decoupled from the orbiter and initiated the landing approach. After separating from the orbiter at an altitude of 200 km, the lander with the ascent stage mounted on it had to lower its orbit in two stages.

The actual landing process was initiated on December 1, 2020 at 14:57 UTC. The lander's controllable main engine (see below) gradually reduced the horizontal speed of the probe from 1.7 km / s to zero while at the same time straightening up. As with the two predecessor probes Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 4 , the autonomously operating lander paused about 100 m above the ground for a short while using its three-dimensional imaging laser scannerto provide an overview. The lander independently looked for a level space free of boulders - since the lander was to function later as a launch pad for the ascent stage (see below), this was even more important than with the previous probes - on which it then slowly lowered itself, avoiding any dust formation if possible . After 14 minutes, at 15:11 UTC, Chang'e 5 touched down on the moon. The exact landing site is at 51.837 ° west longitude and 43.099 ° north latitude, in the plain northeast of Mons Rümker and 20 km west of the Rima Sharp moon groove near the Louville Omega massif . After landing, the probe unfolded its solar modules and the directional antenna.


After landing and unfolding the solar modules, the locking mechanism of the drilling mechanism was first released, then the probe began to take a soil sample with its core hole drill (see below). The 2 m long drill core, protected by a thin-walled aramid tube, was wound up and stowed in a cylindrical transport container, which was sealed to prevent it from mixing with the other soil samples. This process was completed after two hours on December 1, 2020 at 20:53 UTC. The probe then began to take samples of surface material with its excavator shovel at various locations around the lander. Each scoop full of regolith was individually packaged in a sample tube and this was then packed in another, datedResearch Institute 510 of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology in Lanzhou housed the transport container developed. This cylinder was then also sealed gas-tight. All sampling was completed on December 2, 2020 at 14:00 UTC.

Results of remote sensing measurements were available prior to landing on the composition of the rock in the landing zone. Accordingly, it is basalt with a low titanium content. It contains a mass fraction of about 6 to 9 percent titanium (IV) oxide (TiO 2 ), the proportion of iron (II) oxide (FeO) in the basalt region is around 17.5 percent. The soil samples will provide more precise information about this. The landing area is in a larger geological context, as the plateau is relatively young at 1.3 billion years (age estimate based on crater calculations). Most of the lunar volcanism, on the other hand, occurred a little more than 2 billion years ago, i.e. 700 million years earlier.

Back start

The probe landed on a flat spot without craters or bumps, the sampling went without the difficulties feared and, at 19 hours, required significantly less time than planned. Finally, a small flagpole was folded up on the lander and the national flag made of non-fading synthetic fiber was stretched out. On December 3, 2020 at 12:07 UTC the countdown for the start of the ascent stage began. The lander's solar modules were folded and placed vertically so that they were not damaged as much as possible. At 15:10 UTC, the lock between the lander and the 800 kg ascent step was released and a spring mechanism pushed the latter up. Then the 3 kN engine of the ascent stage ignited, the hot combustion gases were diverted to the side by a small flow deflector on the lander. One of theResearch Institute for Space-Related Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Beijing developed a camera on top of the lander, filmed the take-off process and transmitted it to Earth.

The lander was not a regular launch pad. The engineers at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology had made numerous tests on Earth to ensure that the ascent stage could still start if the lander had come to a stop on a surface inclined by 20 °. Thanks to thorough preliminary reconnaissance, including by the orbiter of the Chang'e 5-T1 test probe , which photographed the planned landing site from a height of only 15 km in April 2015, the actual inclination of the lander to the horizontal was only 2 °. However, the exact calculation was difficult. There is still no network of navigation satellites on the moon - this is expected to begin in 2024 with the Chang'e 7 missionbe built up gradually. Therefore, the ascent level first flew vertically upwards, determined its position with the aid of the Chinese deep space network and its own star sensors and swiveled into a highly eccentric orbit with a periselenum of 15 km and an aposelenum of 180 km. Six minutes after take-off, after a flight distance of around 250 km, the engines were switched off.

Coupling maneuver

After a total of four orbit correction maneuvers, the ascent stage docked a good two days later, on December 5, 2020 at 21:42 UTC at an altitude of 200 km at the orbiter - a maneuver for which only a time window of 3.5 hours was available. The upper part of the toroidal orbiter, in the central recess of which the re-entry capsule is located, was surrounded by a pressure transmission and protective cover marked yellow in the illustration for the start from Earth and the time in lunar orbit. This protective cover was dropped shortly before the rendezvous with the ascent stage. The ascent stage and orbiter initially approached remotely from the Beijing Space Control Centereach other, from a distance of 100 km then independently, as fine control was not possible due to the long signal propagation time between the moon and earth. For the navigation on the last stage, a radar system developed by the 25th Research Institute of the Changfeng Engineering Office for Electrical Engineering with a transmitter on the orbiter and a responder on the ascent stage was used, which was also used in a similar form in 2017 when the transport spaceship Tianzhou 1 was docked to the Tiangong space laboratory 2was used (the company produces air defense systems in everyday life). For the moon mission, however, the weight of the devices had been reduced by half, and they now weighed around 4.4 kg. In addition to the position determination, the communication between the orbiter and the ascent stage also ran via this system.

Separation of ascent stage (left) and orbiter (right)

When approaching, the orbiter grasped the ascent step with nine gripping claws arranged in three groups of three after three star-shaped handle bars on the top of the ascent step. The claws were folded in and pulled the ascent stage to the orbiter so that it was positioned just above the upper hatch of the re-entry capsule. The containers with the soil samples were transferred to the re-entry capsule and this was sealed in order to avoid contamination with terrestrial material upon landing. Coupling took 21 seconds from first contact to locking. At 22:12 UTC, exactly half an hour after docking, the handover process was completed.

On December 6, 2020 at 04:35 UTC, the ascent stage decoupled from the orbiter and initially remained in lunar orbit, which it left on December 7, 2020 at 22:59 UTC following a corresponding command from the Beijing Space Control Center. Half an hour later, at 23:30 UTC, the ascent stage hit the moon at 0 ° west longitude and 30 ° south latitude in order to keep the space near the moon free of space debris. The point of impact is between the Regiomontanus and Walther craters in the southwest of the moon's front .


After six days in the old orbit, the orbiter performed an initial orbital correction maneuver on December 12, 2020 at 01:54 UTC, increasing the aposelenum of its orbit while maintaining the periselenum of 200 km. The orbit changed from circular to elliptical.

Orbit tracking on the return from the moon, the ship Yuan Wang 3 was not used this time

On December 13, 2020 at 01:51 UTC at a distance of 230 km from the lunar surface, four attitude control thrusters, each with 150 N thrust, were started up for 22 minutes. As a result, the orbiter swiveled with the re-entry capsule into a transfer orbit to Earth. Another orbit correction maneuver took place on December 16 at 01:15 UTC, whereby two attitude control thrusters, each with a thrust of 25 N, were ignited for 8 seconds. Half a day later, at 17:00 UTC, the orbiter set down on the orders of the Beijing Space Control Centerthe re-entry capsule at an altitude of 5000 km above the earth. Then the orbiter fired its engine to regain distance from Earth. The re-entry capsule first entered the atmosphere at 17:33 UTC at an altitude of 120 km at a speed of 11.2 km / s or 40,320 km / h. For comparison: The Shenzhou spaceships return from orbit at 7.6 km / s. The capsule completed a two-part descent with atmospheric braking , with its outer wall heated to up to 3000 ° C, while the temperature inside the capsule was only 28.5 ° C. At a height of 10 km above the ground, the stabilization parachute and shortly afterwards the braking parachute deployed. The landing took place on December 16, 2020 at 17:59 UTC in the area ofDörbed-Banners in Inner Mongolia .

Thanks to careful orbit tracking , the landing site was known exactly, and the separately operating rescue teams - one with helicopters, the other with vehicles - had the capsule despite the darkness - the landing took place at 2 a.m. local time - and temperatures of below −20 ° C in the snow-covered one Steppe reached quickly. First a three-layer "nightgown" was put on the capsule to protect it from the cold, then it was taken by truck to the Zhurihe Tactical Army Training Base (中国人民解放军 陆军 朱 日 和 合同 战术 训练 基地) in the area of ​​the Right Söned Banner brought. From there the capsule was taken to Beijing by transport planewhere it arrived in the late afternoon of December 17, 2020 (local time). First, the capsule was taken to the manufacturing company, the Chinese Academy of Space Technology. There it will be opened over the next few days under the supervision of the National Space Agency of China . The containers with the soil samples are removed and handed over to the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at a ceremony .

The mission process was much more complicated than that of the Soviet Luna return probes . There the ascent stage had to reach an altitude of 54,500 km . After that, it simply returned straight to Earth in free fall. Here, on the other hand, the fuel only had to reach the orbiter in the lunar orbit in the ascent stage. This enabled more sample material to be taken up from the moon - also because the robustly built and, at 300 kg, relatively heavy re-entry capsule did not land on the moon, but remained in the orbiter.

Another advantage compared to the Luna concept from 1969 is that the intermediate step with the orbiter, which takes over the samples in the lunar orbit, allows the Chang'e probes to be launched not only from near the lunar equator and directly to earth, but also from the southern polar region of the moon, for example. The ascent stage, which is not heated and only supplied with electricity via solar cells, must start before sunset - whether the payloads on the similarly constructed lander will survive the moonlit night is one of the things that are tested - but you are more flexible with the schedule than with the Luna missions.


The four modules of Chang'e 5 contain a total of 77 hypergolic engines manufactured by the Academy for Liquid Rocket Engine Technology , from small attitude control engines with 10 N, 25 N and 150 N thrust to the main engine of the lander, whose thrust ranges from 1.5 kN to 7 , 5 kN can be regulated. Unlike the Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 4 probes , whose engines only needed to work until landing, the development of Chang'e 5 was based on the assumption that the engines of the ascent stage would last for up to ten days the sample collection devices whirled up, electrostatically chargedMoon dust could be exposed. Special dust protection measures were taken on these engines to ensure a safe return of the ascent stage into lunar orbit.

Lander payloads

The lander, which is based on the Chang'e 3 bus, has a laser range finder, a three-dimensional laser scanner and a landing camera for the landing process, which independently avoids obstacles, plus a panorama camera, a spectrometer and a ground penetrating radar with the under the surface in the regolith embedded boulders, which could be dangerous to the drill, could be detected and, if necessary, avoided.

There are two devices on the lander for taking soil samples:

  • A core hole drill with tungsten carbide drill head, developed at Harbin Polytechnic University and built in Factory 529 of the Academy for Space Technology (航天 五 院 529 厂) in Beijing , which works on the principle of a hammer drill through rock with a maximum Mohs hardness of 8 to 2 m Should penetrate deep and drill at least one core . A thin-walled hose made of aramid ran through the inside of the hollow drill, which was closed and pulled up after the end of the drilling process by means of a spring wire mechanism sewn into the lower end. On the one hand, the hose held the material of the drill core together, prevented it from mixing and thus preserved the sequence of the various soil layers. On the other hand, the soft aramid tube made it possible to bend and roll up the drill core so that it fit into the ascent step.
  • To get regolith samples from the lunar surface, the lander has a mechanical arm - also developed in Harbin - with a small excavator shovel at the end. The 3.7 m long arm made from an aluminum - silicon carbide - metal matrix composite(AlSiC) has several joints, can be swiveled in a range of 120 ° and thus made it possible to take samples on an area of ​​seven to eight square meters. Each scoop full of regolith was first packed individually at the front end of the arm with a vibrating and separating mechanism and then placed in a sample container directly behind it. This ensured that the samples from different locations around the country did not come into contact with one another. When the sample receptacle was full, the entire mechanism was lifted into the step and separated from the arm at the paddle joint.

The ratio of the surface samples collected with the excavator shovel to the drilled material was about 3: 1, 1.5 kg of surface material and 0.5 kg of material from the deeper layers. These were the maximum quantities that could be transported into lunar orbit with the given thrust of the engines. If there had been problems collecting the soil samples, they would have been satisfied with smaller quantities in order not to endanger the mission. For comparison: The Soviet Luna 24 probe drilled to a depth of 2.25 m in 1976. But since the drill was thinner, she only obtained 170 g of material.

The drill and excavator were placed on opposite sides of the probe, which landed with the excavator on the sunny side and the drill in the shade. Working with the excavator was relatively demanding and they wanted the technicians at the Beijing Space Control Center to have a good view of the ground. On the other hand, it was feared that the drill might overheat. The device with a power consumption of a good 1000 W was designed in such a way that it still worked properly at temperatures of up to 180 ° C (the maximum working temperature for drills on earth is 100 ° C), but for safety reasons it was preferred to place the drill in the Shadow.

Soil samples

The National Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have a special laboratory at their headquarters on Datun Street in Beijing, where the soil samples can be examined and stored. The long-term ex-situ storage takes place at a facility of the Hunan University in Shaoshan , the birthplace of Mao Zedong , which complies with the disaster control regulations. The soil material stored at the National Observatories, which represents the largest part of the total, as well as the data obtained from it, are also available to scientists from other institutions at home and abroad on request. The applications are assessed and prioritized by an international commission of experts, the final approval is given by the National Space Agency of China . A small number of the samples are exhibited in the Chinese National Museum in Beijing to keep the population interested in science and technology . In addition, some of the soil samples will be sent to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs handed over for further distribution and used for gifts on state visits.

Chang'e 5-T1

Chang'e 5-T1 was an experimental lunar robot mission launched on October 23, 2014 to conduct atmospheric re-entry tests for the capsule earmarked for the Chang'e-5 mission. After separation from the return capsule, the service module based on the DFH-3A bus returned from Earth orbit to the moon on November 1, 2014 , where it was transferred to a lunar orbit via the Lagrange point L 2 . There, the remaining 800 kg of fuel were used for testing maneuvers for future lunar missions.

Web links

Commons : Chang'e 5  - collection of images, videos and audio files

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