Beijing: China plans to launch the Chang'e-5 lunar probe at the end of November this year aboard the heavy-lift carrier rocket Long March-5.
This mission, which will be the first to collect samples from the Moon's surface automatically and the first that will return to Earth, will take place four years after the deployment of China's last mission to the Moon and a little more than a year after the cessation of operations of the robotic Moon rover, which was part of that mission, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced on Monday.
"With a weight of 8.2 tonnes, the lunar probe has four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander," said Ye Peijian, one of China's leading aerospace experts and a consultant to the programme.
The lander will put moon samples in a vessel in the ascender after the moon landing. Then the ascender will take off from the moon to dock with the orbiter and the returner orbiting the moon, and transfer the samples to the returner, the People's Daily reported.
The orbiter and returner will then head back to the earth, separating from each other when they are several thousands kilometres from earth. Finally, the returner will re-enter the earth.
The development of Chang'e-5 has entered the end of its flight model phase, and relevant work is proceeding smoothly, according to CASC.
China plans to fulfil three strategic steps with the launch of Chang'e-5, "orbiting, landing and returning".
The country also plans to launch the Chang'e-4 lunar probe around 2018 to achieve mankind's first soft landing on the far side of the moon, and to conduct an in situ and roving detection and relay communications at earth-moon L2 point, according to the China National Space Administration.