onsdag 16. desember 2020

China's Chang'e 5 moon lander is no more after successfully snagging lunar rocks

China's Chang'e 5 lander touched down on the moon and collected the first lunar samples in nearly 50 years, but now the lights have gone out. The Chang'e 5 lander was a crucial part of China's daring sample-return mission. It made a stunning descent and soft landing in the moon's Oceanus Procellarum, or "Ocean of Storms," on Dec. 1 before conducting sampling and other science experiments.

The sun set over the solar-powered spacecraft, which landed near the volcanic peak Mons Rümker in the northwest of the near side of the moon, on Dec. 11. Without the radioisotope heater units carried by the long-lived Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 4 landers, the electronics and systems on Chang'e 5 will succumb to temperatures as low as minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 190 degrees Celsius).

However, it appears the spacecraft has already ceased working. Reports indicate that the lander was damaged when it acted as a launch pad for the mission's ascent vehicle to blast off from to reach low lunar orbit on Dec. 3. The ascent vehicle carried the samples collected by the lander's drill and robotic arm and delivered them to the Chang'e orbiter circling the moon. Cameras on the lander captured the ascent vehicle's takeoff, which started with a spring mechanism before ignition of the ascender's 3,000 Newton engine.