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Hainan prepares cosmodrome for launching vehicle for delivering soil from Moon to Earth

If successful, China will become the third country in the world after Russia and the US that has managed to implement such a project

HAIKOU, November 21./TASS/. The management of Wenchang space center on the northeastern coast of the Hainan has prepared the infrastructure for the launch of the Chang'e-5 mission, which will deliver lunar soil samples to Earth from a natural satellite of the planet. According to the China Corporation of Aerospace Science and Technology, all work is being carried out as usual in accordance with the schedule.

According to sources from China's leading information portal on space-related topics, "Hantian Aihaozhe", the launch of the Changzheng-5 launch vehicle is scheduled for November 24 and will take place from 04:00 to 07:00 local time (from 23:00 Monday to 02:00 Tuesday Moscow time). It has already been moved from the hangar and installed on the platform. In the next couple of days "Changzheng-5" will be tested and will be refueled. 

For the first time in the last 44 years, mankind will carry out a mission to deliver from the Moon samples of geological rock, which is planned to be extracted from a depth of two meters. Then one of the Chang'e-5 modules will take off, do automatic docking in orbit, after which a 2 kg load will be sent to Earth by means of the reentry vehicle. If successful, China will become the third country in the world after Russia and the US that has managed to implement such a project.

According to local experts, the upcoming launch "will be one of the most difficult in the history of Chinese astronautics." "Previously, our vehicles returned at the first space speed, which is 7.9 km per second. This time we have to do it at the second, which is about 11.2 km per second," explained the Deputy Chief Engineer of the Center for Moon Research and Space Programs (CLEP) of the National Space Administration of the People's Republic of China Yu Dengyun. "Many parameters of the mission are becoming more complex, including those related to aerodynamic properties, heat resistance of materials [of the reentry capsule], and control [of the process of its delivery to Earth]."

According to Chinese designers, they had to pay special attention to technologies that were not previously used in the country. They recalled that the Moon's gravity is only one-sixth of that of the Earth, so adherence to sampling parameters is paramount. What is more, the spacecraft take off from the lunar surface is conducted under conditions that differ in many respects from the features of an Earth launch. 

Space technology

The Changzheng-5 multistage launch vehicle runs on hydrogen fuel and is capable of delivering cargo weighing up to 25 tonnes to low-earth orbit. It has already been used five times: in November 2016 to launch the Shijian-17 satellite, then in July 2017 (then there was a problem in the engine operation, which was subsequently eliminated), in December 2019 (commissioning of the Shijian -20 "), in May 2020 (testing a prototype of a manned spacecraft), as well as in July, when the Chinese space probe Tianwen-1 was sent to Mars.

The Chang'e-5 lunar vehicle weighs 8.2 tonnes and consists of four modules designed for landing on the Moon, taking off from its surface, docking and reloading containers with samples in orbit, and returning to Earth. Initially, the mission was planned for 2017, then it was postponed to the end of 2019, and then to November 2020.

China is actively developing its national space program, advancing meteorological, telecommunications and navigation satellites, as well as technologies for lunar exploration. In late July-early August, Chinese scientists launched the first national project for the exploration of Mars, they intend to begin intensive study of the surface of its surface in the near future. Among the promising Chinese programs is the study of asteroids and the extraction of minerals from them. In 2018 and 2019, Beijing was the world's leader in the number of launches, having carried them out 39 and 34 times, respectively.