By 2017, China will send a recoverable lunar spacecraft that will return to Earth with samples of soil and rock. The recoverable spacecraft-Chang’e 5-is currently being developed by Chinese scientists, as reported by Space Industry News. An official from China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry said that the development of the spacecraft was on course and on schedule.
This recoverable robotic spacecraft is a component of the larger Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Also referred to as Chang’e, this program comprises three operational phases and is the brainchild of the National Space Administration of China.
In phase one of the program, two orbital space missions (featuring the series’ lunar orbiters) were completed. The second phase of the mission will focus on rovers and soft landers - and is yet to be fully realized.
Chang’e 3, which was carrying a lunar rover to map and explore the surface of the Moon over a three-month duration, reported a successful landing in December last.
Later this year, the Chang’e 4 test vehicle will take off, paving the way for phase three of the mission that will return with samples from the moon. According to reports, the lunar test orbiter has reached the Xichang launch site located in the Sichuan province of China.
On its return to earth, Chang’e 5 is expected to fall through the Earth’s atmosphere at an estimated escape velocity of 11.2 km/second. This is the first time that a Chinese spacecraft would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at such high speeds. This is what makes it difficult to use a simulation test to re-create the possible scenarios in such an event.