The Chang’e 5 lander and ascent assembly separated from the orbiter and return-vehicle assembly on November 29 in preparation for a soft landing on the near side of the Moon.
After completing a 17-minute burn approximately 400 kilometers from the lunar surface on November 28, the Chang’e 5 spacecraft successfully entered orbit around the Moon. A day later, the spacecraft completed a second burn to move into a near-circular lunar orbit at an altitude of approximately 200 kilometers from the lunar surface.
The separation of the Chang’e 5 lander and ascent assembly from the orbiter and return-vehicle assembly was completed at 20:40 UTC On November 29. Following the successful separation, officials from the Chinese Space Agency, CNSA confirmed that all elements of the mission were operating nominally.
The next phase of the mission will see the lander and ascent assembly attempt a soft landing at the peak of Mons Rümker, a mountain in the Oceanus Procellarum region on the near side of the Moon.
Once on the surface, the spacecraft will collect approximately 2 kilograms of soil and rocks from a depth of 2 meters. Within just two weeks of touchdown, the sample will be sealed and placed inside the ascent vehicle ready for launch from the lunar surface.
To date, only the United States and Russia have successfully returned samples from the surface of the Moon. Between 1968 and 1972, the United States brought back over 380 kilograms of soil and rocks during the country’s Apollo program. The Soviet Union’s Luna 16 is the only robotic mission to have returned samples back from the Moon. Luna 16 was undertaken in 1976 and returned just 170 grams of soil.