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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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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NASA Has a New Challenge to Bring Frozen Samples of the Moon Back to Earth

When astronauts return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, they will be tasked with conducting some very lucrative science operations. Like their predecessors, this will include a sample-return mission, where they bring back lunar rocks and regolith for study. There have also been proposals that renewed missions to the Moon bring back samples of lunar ice so scientists can determine where the Moon’s water came from.

And it appears NASA was listening and would like some public input on this! To this end, the NASA Tournament Lab and TechConnect Ventures (a n open-innovation platform) have come together to launch the NASA Lunar Deep Freeze Challenge. Basically, NASA is looking for ideas on how cold samples collected in the lunar polar region could be preserved and kept frozen for the return trip to Earth.

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Just A Couple Of Weeks From Now, OSIRIS-REx Will Grab A Sample From Bennu

An artist's illustration of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching asteroid Bennu with its sampling instrument extended. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA is about to achieve another first for their organization. In about three weeks time, on October 20th, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to Bennu’s surface, briefly touch down, and collect a sample from the asteroid. The spacecraft will collect a minimum of 60 grams (2 oz.) of material for return to Earth.

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OSIRIS-REx did its Closest Flyover Yet, just 250 Meters Above its Sample Site

Artist’s conception of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample return spacecraft collecting regolith samples at asteroid Bennu. Credits: NASA/Lockheed Martin

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is getting closer, physically and temporally, to its primary goal. The spacecraft arrived at Bennu at the end of 2018, and for just over a year it’s been studying the asteroid, searching for a suitable sampling site. To do that, it’s getting closer and closer.

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OSIRIS-REx Flew 620 Meters Above its Landing Site. Confirms that it’s a Boulder-Strewn Nightmare, Just Like the Rest of Bennu

Image obtained on Mar. 7th by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a distance of about 5 km (3 mi) Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached its target, asteroid Bennu (101955 Bennu), on December 3rd, 2018. Since then, the spacecraft has been examining the asteroid’s surface, looking for a suitable landing spot to collect a sample. The problem is, Bennu has a much rockier and challenging surface than initially thought.

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It’s Time for Hayabusa-2 to Come Home

Artist's impression of the Hayabusa2 taking samples from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita/JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is on its way home. The asteroid-visiting, sample-return mission departed asteroid Ryugu (162173 Ryugu) on Wednesday, beginning its year-long journey back to Earth. And it’s carrying some precious cargo.

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You Can Use a Live Webcam to Watch NASA Build the Mars 2020 Rover

NASA's Mars 2020 rover under construction at JPL. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech

NASA’s next mission to the surface of Mars is called the 2020 rover (in case you didn’t know already.) It’s planned launch date is July 17th, 2020, and it should land at Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18th 2021. The rover is still under construction at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.

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Shout Out to Japan! Their Hayabusa2 Spacecraft has Collected its First Samples from Asteroid Ryugu

An illustration of JAXA's Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The spacecraft has completed its first sampling maneuver. Image Credit: JAXA
An illustration of JAXA's Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The spacecraft has completed its first sampling maneuver. Image Credit: JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft has completed an important part of its mission to asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft descended to the surface of the asteroid to collect two samples with its sampling horn. We don’t know for sure if samples were successfully collected, but all indications are that the sampling mission went well.

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