The returnee of the Chinese Chang’e-5 probe, who carries the precious soil and the rocks collected by the moon, is about to complete his journey and lands in Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia in northern China.
According to the mission’s search and retrieval team, the ground team at the landing site is fully prepared for the historic task on Tuesday after several simulation exercises.
The team is from the Chinese Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Although the task – the very last step of the Chang’e 5 mission – is back on earth, it is still fraught with challenges and difficulties.
1. Landing of a small spacecraft in a large potential area
The Siziwang Banner landing site was where China’s manned spacecraft landed in Shenzhou. However, the size of the returnees from Chang’e-5 is only one-seventh the size of a starship’s returning capsule, while its possible landing area is 16 times larger than the latter. That means the search work could be a lot more difficult.
2. Landing of the returnees on snow-covered ground on a cold winter night
Inner Mongolia is now winter and the landing site is covered in snow.
The returnees are expected to sit down at night, which increases the difficulty of searching. During the simulation exercises, high-performance floodlights were installed on helicopters and ground vehicles so that they can find the target quickly.
3. Complicated conditions of the landing site
It has been four years since the last search and recovery mission was carried out at the Siziwang Banner landing site, which has seen major changes since then. Many new facilities such as wire fences, high voltage transmission lines and cellular base stations were built there.
To ensure the safe landing of helicopters and the timely arrival of search vehicles, the team carried out almost 30 topographical surveys of the possible landing area. Obstacles such as wire towers and wind measurement towers as well as special land forms such as gorges and small lakes were marked.
In the last simulation exercise, after receiving the sixth landing forecast from the mission’s command center in Beijing, two groups of employees – one with helicopters and one with ground vehicles – went to the expected landing site at the same time. The air team arrived quickly and the ground team helped with the proper recovery.