About China's lunar mission: Chang'e series lunar probes -Xinhua

About China's lunar mission: Chang'e series lunar probes

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-05-03 23:15:30

BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- China launched the Chang'e-6 spacecraft on Friday to collect and return samples from the moon's mysterious far side -- the first such endeavor in the history of human lunar exploration.

Before Chang'e-6, China had sent a series of lunar probes to the moon to carry out its lunar exploration program. They were named after the mythical Chinese goddess Chang'e, who took a longevity potion and floated into the sky, eventually landing on the moon, where she became the moon goddess. Here is a brief introduction to the Chang'e series lunar probes.


On Oct. 24, 2007, China launched Chang'e-1, its first lunar probe, making China the fifth country to develop and launch a lunar probe on its own.

Orbiting 200 km above the moon, Chang'e-1 mapped 3D images of the lunar surface, analyzed the distribution of elements, measured the depth of the lunar soil, and explored the environment between Earth and the moon. It made a controlled crash on the lunar surface after orbiting the moon for about 16 months.


On Oct. 1, 2010, Chang'e-2 was sent into space. It took pictures of the moon's Sinus Iridium, or the Bay of Rainbows, which was the proposed landing site of Chang'e-3. It completed all six engineering objectives and four scientific missions after six months' operation, with its design lifetime expired.

On Dec. 13, 2012, Chang'e-2, in deep space 7 million km from Earth, flew by and surveyed the Toutatis asteroid. It then continued further into deep space, becoming a man-made asteroid in the solar system.


On Dec. 2, 2013, China launched the Chang'e-3 probe with its first moon rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) aboard.

On Dec. 14, 2013, Chang'e-3 landed on the moon, marking the first time that China had sent a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. It included a lander and a moon rover, which took photos of each other. The probe acquired a geological profile of the moon, and discovered a new kind of lunar rock.


-- On Oct. 24, 2014, China launched an experimental spacecraft, comprising a re-entry capsule and a service module, to test technologies to be used on Chang'e-5.

-- On Nov. 1, 2014, the return capsule touched down at the designated landing area in Siziwang Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The service module flew back to orbit the moon for further tests and reached the L2 point of the Earth-Moon system to conduct experiments.


On May 21, 2018, China launched a relay satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) to set up a communication link between Earth and the moon's far side.

The Chang'e-4 probe, launched on Dec. 8, 2018, made the first-ever soft landing on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, on the far side of the moon, on Jan. 3, 2019. It includes a lander and a moon rover called Yutu-2.


On Nov. 24, 2020, China launched the Chang'e-5 probe that comprises an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner.

On Dec. 1, the lander-ascender combination of Chang'e-5 successfully landed on the near side of the moon and started sampling.

On Dec. 3, the ascender of Chang'e-5 took off from the lunar surface and entered the preset lunar orbit with lunar samples. On Dec. 6, the ascender successfully rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit, and transferred the samples to the returner.

On Dec. 17, 2020, the returner of the Chang'e-5 probe separated from the orbiter and successfully landed in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.


On May 3, 2024, China launched the Chang'e-6 probe. It comprises an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, like its predecessor Chang'e-5.

After it reaches the moon, it will make a soft landing on the far side. Within 48 hours of landing, a robotic arm will be extended to scoop up rocks and soil from the lunar surface, and a drill will bore into the ground. Scientific detection work will be carried out simultaneously.

After the samples are sealed in a container, the ascender will take off from the moon and dock with the orbiter in lunar orbit. The returner will then carry the samples back to Earth, landing in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The entire flight is expected to last about 53 days.