Seeking to become the third country in the world to bring samples of the Moon to Earth, China is preparing to launch the Long March 5 Chang’e-5 rocket – and has already positioned it on the platform of the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The expectation is that the takeoff will take place next Tuesday (24). Due to the large size of the equipment (878 tons), it took two hours to complete the process, which took place on Monday (16).
The Asian country has been dedicated since September to the preparations for the event, something expected since 2017, a time when an unsuccessful attempt postponed plans that are only now being put into practice. The confidence, this time, lies in the fact that, in July this year, Tianwen-1, bound for Mars, functioned properly.
If all goes well, Chang’e-5 will land next to a lunar volcanic formation located at Oceanus Procellarum, a region on the western edge of the natural satellite that contains geological units about 1.21 billion years old – much younger than those brought by Apollo astronauts, aged between 3.1 and 4.4 billion years.
In order to collect the approximately 2 kg of samples through 2-meter-deep holes, some challenges will have to be overcome – and they are not at all modest.
For everything there is a first time
According to Yu Dengyun, deputy chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, the main obstacle to the mission concerns the collection of rocks: “The gravity of the Moon is different from that found on Earth, representing about 1/6. circumstances, packaging the samples is the key point to work on. We’ve never tried this before. ”
“In addition, we usually complete the launch of the rocket on Earth at a fixed point. We have a proven technique in this field. However, we still have difficulties in taking off from the landing module, something unprecedented in our history”, he adds.
In the event of any adversity, Chang’e-6 already exists, which, if necessary, will offer backup to the equipment already in place; not being used this time, it will be directed to a mission in 2023, towards the lunar south pole.
Other projects for the construction of a research station there are already underway – but, of course, everything depends on the development of the story that begins next week.