China’s Lunar Lander Finds Water Under its Feet

The area marked by the red line are the scoop sampling points, the blue box identifies the imaging area of the panoramic camera and the base image is from landing camera. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Earlier this year, scientists from China’s Chang’E-5 lunar lander revealed they had found evidence of water in the form of hydroxyl from in-situ measurements taken while lander was on the Moon. Now, they have confirmed the finding with laboratory analysis of the lunar samples from Chang’E-5 that were returned to Earth.  The amount of water detected varied across the randomly chosen samples taken from around the base of the lander, from 0 to 180 parts per million (ppm), mean value of 28.5?ppm, which is on the weak end of lunar hydration.

“For the first time in the world, the results of laboratory analysis of lunar return samples and spectral data from in-situ lunar surface surveys were used jointly to examine the presence, form and amount of ‘water’ in lunar samples,” said co-author Li Chunlai from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), in a press release. “The results accurately answer the question of the distribution characteristics and source of water in the Chang’E-5 landing zone and provide a ground truth for the interpretation and estimation of water signals in remote sensing survey data.”

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China’s Lander Has Detected Water on the Moon

Illustration: Chang'e-5 probe
An artist's concept shows the Chang'e-5 lander and ascent vehicle on the Moon. (CNSA / CLEP via NASA)

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander has found evidence of hydroxyl (OH) on the Moon. Hydroxyl is a close chemical cousin of water, H2O. While several other orbital missions have detected OH on the Moon previously, Chang’e-5 marks the first time it has been detected by a spacecraft sitting on the lunar surface.

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Chang’e-5 Returned an Exotic Collection of Moon Rocks

Image of the Chang’e-5 sample “CE5C0400” from the Moon’s surface. This fraction of lunar materials returned to Earth by Chang’e-5 weighs nearly 35 grams and was collected by a robotic arm. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).

Scientists have begun studying the samples returned from the Moon by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in December 2020, and a group of researchers presented their first findings at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) last week.

“The Chang’e-5 samples are very diverse, and includes both local and exotic materials, including some glutenates [sharp, jagged lunar particles], silicas, salts, volcanic glasses, and impact glasses, along with different minerals and different rock types,” said Yuqi Qian, a PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, during his presentation at the EPSC virtual meeting.

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Chang’e-5 Brought Home 1.7 Kilograms of Lunar Samples

Chinese scientists open the sample container from the Chang-e-5 lunar sample return mission. Credit: Xinhua

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander retrieved about 1.7 kilograms (3.81 pounds) of samples from the Moon, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).  The Chang’e-5 sample return capsule landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region on December 16, 2020, successfully capping a 23-day odyssey that brought back the first lunar rocks since 1976.

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Here’s Chang’e-5, Seen From Lunar Orbit

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

On Tuesday, December 1st, at 10:11 EST (07:00 PST) the Chang’e-5 sample return spacecraft landed safely on the Moon. This mission is the latest in China’s lunar exploration program, which is paving the way for the creation of a lunar outpost and a crewed mission by the 2030s. The day after it landed, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the site and acquired an image of the lander.

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Chinese Spacecraft Dock in Lunar Orbit for Transfer of Moon Samples – Next Stop, Earth!

Chang'e-5's orbiter approaches the lunar ascent vehicle for docking. (CLEP / CNSA Photo)

Two robotic Chinese spacecraft have docked in lunar orbit for the first time ever, in preparation for sending samples from the Moon to Earth.

The lunar ascent module for China’s Chang’e-5 mission was captured by the metal claws of the mission’s orbiter at 5:42 a.m. Beijing time December 6th (2142 UTC December 5th), the China National Space Administration reported.

Over the half-hour that followed, a canister containing lunar material was safely transferred to the orbiter’s attached Earth-return capsule. In the days ahead, the ascent module will be jettisoned, and the orbiter will fire its thrusters to carry the return capsule back toward Earth.

If all proceeds according to plan, the orbiter will drop off the return capsule for its descent to Inner Mongolia sometime around December 16th, with the exact timing dependent on the mission team’s analysis of the required trajectory. That would mark the first return of fresh material from the Moon since the Soviet Luna 24 spacecraft accomplished the feat back in 1976.

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China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Blasts Off From the Moon, Bringing Back a Full Load of Samples

A camera on China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft captures the moment of ignition for the ascent module, taking off from the lunar surface. (CNSA / CLEP / Zhang Gaoxiang)

For the first time in more than 40 years, a robotic spacecraft has blasted off from the Moon – and for the first time ever, it’s a Chinese spacecraft, carrying precious lunar samples back to Earth.

The ascent vehicle for the Chang’e-5 mission fired its engine and rose a region called Oceanus Procellarum at 1510 UTC (11:10 p.m. Beijing time) on December 3rd, the China National Space Administration’s China Lunar Exploration Project reported.

Imagery sent back from the Moon provided a view of the blastoff from ground zero. It was the first successful lunar launch since the Soviet Luna 24 probe took off during a sample return mission in 1976.

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Take a Look at What China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Is Seeing (and Doing) on the Moon

A panoramic view from China's Chang'e-5 probe shows the lunar terrain in front of the lander, including one of the landing legs in the foreground. (CNSA / CLEP Photo)

China’s Chang’e-5 robotic moon lander is due to spend only two days collecting samples of lunar rock and soil before it sends its shipment on its way back to Earth, but it’s making the most of the time.

Just hours after landing on December 1st, the probe started using its robotic scoop and drill to dig up material at Mons Rümker, a lava dome in a region called Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms.

It’s also been sending back pictures and video, including this stunning view of the final minutes before touchdown. Watch how the camera tips straight down to focus on the target spot for the lander:

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China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Lands on the Moon and Gets Set to Bring Back Fresh Samples

Chang'e-5 illustration
An artist's conception shows the Chang'e-5 probe on the moon. (Credit: CCTV via YouTube)

For the third time in seven years, a Chinese robotic spacecraft has landed on the Moon — but now things will get really interesting: If the Chang’e-5 mission succeeds, the probe will deliver fresh samples from the Moon to Earth for the first time in 44 years.

Chang’e-5’s paired lander and ascent vehicle touched down in a lunar region known as Oceanus Procellarium, near Mons Rümker, at 1513 UTC (11:13 p.m. Beijing time) December 1st. The landing came eight days after the 9-ton spacecraft was launched from Wenchang Space Launch Center, and three days after the craft settled into lunar orbit.

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China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Is Off to Bring Back a Moon Sample — and NASA Hopes to See the Data

Chang'e-5 launch
China's Long March 5 rocket sends the Chang'e-5 probe on the first leg of its mission to the moon and back. (CNSA / CLEP Photo)

China’s Chang’e-5 probe is on its way to the Moon for a mission that could bring back the first samples of lunar rocks and dirt in more than 40 years.

The 8.2-metric-ton spacecraft was sent into space from south China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center at 4:30 a.m. local time November 24th (20:30 Universal Time November 23rd) atop a Long March 5 rocket.

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