China to launch its historic lunar mission

By ZHAO LEI in Wenchang, Hainan | | Updated: 2024-05-03 07:37
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This photo taken on April 27, 2024 shows the combination of the Chang'e 6 lunar probe and the Long March-5 Y8 carrier rocket being transferred vertically to the launching area at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China's Hainan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China is poised to launch its historic Chang'e 6 lunar sample-return mission at 5:27 pm today, according to the China National Space Administration.

The Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket tasked with lifting the Chang'e 6 robotic probe has begun to be injected with liquid oxygen propellants at its launch service tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, the administration said in a news release.

The rocket is set to send the 8.35-metric-ton Chang'e 6, the heaviest lunar probe China has ever built, to an Earth-Moon transfer trajectory to open a complex, challenging journey of the lunar spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.

So far, humankind has fulfilled 10 lunar sample-return missions, but all of the samples were collected from the near side on the Moon, leaving scientists around the world calling for a daring attempt to bring substances from the lunar far side, which never faces Earth.

As one of the world's most powerful operational rockets, the Long March 5 model is built by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing, the nation's major rocket maker and a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The 57-meter-tall rocket has a liftoff weight of nearly 870 metric tons, and is capable of ferrying spacecraft weighing up to 25 tons-the combined weight of 16 mid-size car-to a low-Earth orbit, or 14 tons to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The coming flight will become the second time for the Long March 5 rocket model to lift a lunar mission.

The first time the rocket model was used in a lunar expedition took place in November 2020 as it placed the Chang'e 5, the country's first lunar sample-return mission, into a Moon-bound trajectory.

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