KEY POINTS

  • China is preparing to launch a new lunar mission this year
  • The Chang'e 5 mission is the third phase of China's lunar program
  • China aims to collect samples from the Moon's surface

China’s space agency is currently preparing to launch a new mission to the Moon. According to the details of the mission, the country will focus on collecting lunar samples and bringing them back to Earth.

The new mission is known as Chang’e 5, which will serve as the third phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration program. The second phase, known as Chang’e 4, is currently exploring the far side of the Moon using a robotic rover.

For Chang’e 5, China is looking to collect samples from the lunar surface. These samples will be brought back to Earth by the same mission in order to be analyzed. According to a paper headed by G.L. Zhang of the Chinese Academy of sciences, the upcoming mission will consist of an orbiter, an ascender, a lander and a re-entry module.

The orbiter and the ascender will handle the task sending the Chang’e 5 mission to the lunar surface. The actual sample collection will then be completed by the robotic lander. These samples will then be brought back to Earth by the re-entry module, which will carry about 4.4 pounds of lunar regolith.

Upon reaching Earth, the samples will be stored in special laboratories and facilities to keep them from being affected by Earth’s environment. They will then undergo special preparations such as drilling before they are subjected to analysis and experiments.

“All the tools that contact with lunar sample are made of stainless steel, Teflon, quartz glass or materials of known composition to strictly control the factors that will affect subsequent scientific analysis,” the paper stated, according to Space.com. “The water and oxygen content in the glove box, filled with pure [nitrogen], will be strictly monitored to prevent the lunar samples from Earth pollution.”

The third phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program will kick-off following the launch of the Chang’e 5 mission. Currently, China’s space program has not yet set a date for the expedition. But, according to the agency, the mission will most likely take place later this year.

The mission will be launched from Earth using the Long March 5 rocket, which is China’s heavy-lift vehicle system.