Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 37

CAS / CNSA / THE SCIENCE A ND A PPLICATION CEN TER FOR M OON A ND
DEEPSPACE E X PLOR ATION / EMILY L A K DAWA LL A / CC BY-NC -SA 3.0

Rather than a direct sample return like the last such
mission, the 1976 Soviet Luna 24, Chang'e 5 will employ a
robotic lunar orbit rendezvous. An ascent vehicle will launch
from the lunar surface and meet up with a waiting service
module, which will then head back to Earth and release a
return capsule. The capsule will land in the same area as
China's crewed Shenzhou missions.
This otherwise unnecessary complexity has been taken
as a signal that China is looking to use the mission to prove
technologies for future crewed lunar missions, which could
take place in the 2030s. If Chang'e 5 succeeds, the backup
Chang'e 6 will target the lunar south pole. It will also carry
the French Detection of Outgassing Radon instrument,
which aims to study the transport of volatiles through the
lunar regolith and in the lunar exosphere.
Following the success of its first set of Moon missions and
the shift in international interest toward lunar exploration
over the last 10 years, Chinese scientists and officials have
been formulating an expanded project to explore our celestial
neighbor. In the afterglow of the successful Chang'e 4 landing, China stated that prospective missions beyond Chang'e 6
will go ahead. These will attempt comprehensive exploration
of the lunar south pole, including analysis of topography,
composition, and the space environment. They will also test
key technologies to lay the groundwork for the construction
of a science and research base on the moon, Yanhua Wu,
deputy head of the China National Space Administration,
said in January 2019.
Slated for the mid-2020s, Chang'e 7 will consist of a
relay satellite, orbiter, lander, rover, and hopping detector.
Chang'e 8 will follow. Both missions will likely use the Long
March 5 for transport. Chang'e 8 will test extraction of
volatiles, in-situ resource utilization, and 3D printing on the
Moon. These technologies will support future crewed lunar

p PYRAMID ROCK The Yutu rover visited this block of impact ejecta,
called Long Yan (Pyramid Rock), southwest of the Chang'e 3 lander. The
view is a six-image mosaic.

landings and resource utilization. The missions will also
carry out unspecified biological experiments. Additionally,
scientists may conduct a Very Long Baseline Interferometry
experiment, combining data from Earth-based radio dishes
with one on the relay satellite.

Into Deep Space
China's lunar engineering achievements have built a platform
to journey deeper into the solar system. Members from the
team behind these landings have been involved in preparing for the greater challenges posed by Mars, including the
remote distance, a thin atmosphere (which demands an
aeroshell and parachute system for entry), and a propulsive
landing in a different gravity field. Meeting all these challenges is crucial to entry, descent, and landing.
With its 2020 Mars mission apparently set to go - China
announced in November with a short, public propulsive test
that its landing technology was ready - other projects are
now under way. The next spacecraft in the pipeline has an
ambitious, two-target mission. Tentatively named after Zheng
He, the 15th-century eunuch admiral and explorer, the
10-year mission will visit a near-Earth asteroid (NEA) and
then rendezvous with a main-belt comet.
The target for the first visit is 2016 HO3, also known as
469219 Kamo'oalewa, a roughly 40-meter-diameter NEA. The
plan is to collect up to 1 kilogram of regolith and return this
sample to Earth within three years of launch.
After dropping off a reentry capsule containing the
samples, the spacecraft will then head for Mars, using a Red
Planet flyby to set course for Comet 133P/Elst-Pizarro. The
aim is to reach the comet ahead of its perihelion in 2030 and
remain there for one year, carrying out remote-sensing and
in-situ measurements. Such a mission would, in a few daring maneuvers, demonstrate the kinds of capabilities shown
by the European Rosetta and Japanese Hayabusa missions.
sk yandtelescope.org * JUNE 2 02 0

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Sky & Telescope - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - June 2020

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