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Chang'e 5



Chang'e 5 is a Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) lunar sample return mission that launched on 23 November at approximately 20:30:12 UT (3:30 p.m. EST; 24 November 4:30 a.m. BJT - Beijing Time). The mission goal was to land in the Mons Rumker region of Oceanus Procellarum (roughly 41-45 deg. N, 49-69 deg. W), operate for up to one lunar day (two weeks) and return a roughly 2 kg sample of lunar regolith, possibly from as deep as 2 meters. The sample was returned to Earth in the return capsule, landing in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The mission consists of four modules which will go into lunar orbit. The descender, comprising two of the modules will separate from the orbiter, comprising the other two modules, and land on the Moon. One module, the lander, is equipped to collect samples and transfer them to the second module, the ascent vehicle, designed to launch from the lunar surface into orbit, where it will dock with the third module, the service capsule. Finally the samples will be transferred to the return capsule, the fourth module, which will leave lunar orbit and bring the samples to Earth. The spacecraft has a total mass of approximately 8200 kg. Propulsion for braking into lunar orbit is provided by a 3000 N rocket. Power is provided by solar panels. Chang'e 5 carries a robotic arm with a sampling scoop, a coring drill, and a sample chamber that can return up to 4 kg of regolith. It also has a Panoramic Camera (PCAM), Landing Camera (LCAM), Lunar Regolith Penetrating Radar (LRPR), and a visible and near-infrared Lunar Mineralogical Spectrometer (LMS). The ascender vehicle uses a 3000 N thrust booster to lift off from the lunar surface.

Mission Profile

Chang'e-5 launched from Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island, China, on a Long March 5 on 23 November 2020 at approximately 20:30:12 UT (3:30 p.m. EST; 24 November 4:30 a.m. BJT). Two planned trajectory correction maneuvers were made on 24 and 25 November. The Chang'e-5 spacecraft went into orbit around the Moon on 28 November at 13:15 UT after a 17 minute thruster firing, and then lowered into its nominal 200 km circular orbit. The descender craft separated from the orbiter at 20:40 UT on 29 November. Landing took place in the Mons Rumker region of Oceanus Procellarum (43.058 N, 51.916 W) on 1 December 2020 at about 15:13 UT. The lander is capable of operating for one lunar day (two weeks) but most of the activities took place in the first 48 hours. Some fifteen sampling runs were planned, including scooping and drill coring, and 1.731 kg of lunar regolith samples, from as deep as about 1 meter, were collected and stored in a sample container, the samples were sealed in the container on December 2 at 14:00 UT.

Following sample collection and storage, the sample container was placed by the robotic arm in the small ascender module of the lander, which lifted off from the lunar surface on December 3 at 15:10 UT (23:10 BJT). It rendezvoused with the orbiter and docked on December 5 at 21:42 UT and transferred the sample return container to the return capsule, completing the operation at 22:12 UT. The ascender was then jettisoned from the orbiter and impacted the Moon at approximately 23:30 UT on 7 December near 30 S, 0 E.

The return module continued to orbit the Moon for 5 days, then fired its rockets to enter an Earth-Moon transfer orbit. Before reaching Earth, the Chang'e 5 orbiter separated from the sample return vehicle, and fired its rockets to head for the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L1 for an extended mission to test technology and observe the Sun. After an atmospheric "skip" reentry on December 16 at 17:33 UT, the sample capsule landed in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in north China at 17:59 UT (1:59 a.m. December 17 Beijing time). The sample was recovered and weighed, showing 1.731 kg of lunar regolith was returned.

The Chang'e 5-T1, launched in 2014, was a test flight to validate the atmospheric re-entry design of the sample return capsule.

Image credit: CNSA

Alternate Names

  • 47097
  • Change5

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2020-11-23
Launch Vehicle: Long March 5
Launch Site: Wenchang, Peoples Republic of China
Mass: 8200 kg

Funding Agency

  • China National Space Administration (Peoples Republic of China)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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