China likely to attempt its Chang‘e 5 Moon landing on Tuesday

Enlarge / Technicians celebrate the successful launch of the Chang’e-5 spacecraft at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China. (credit: Jin Liwang/Xinhua via Getty Images)

China’s ambitious space program does not often publish detailed plans of its activities in advance—perhaps this is because it makes it easier for the government to explain away any failures. But thanks to social media leaks, we can now be reasonably confident that the country will attempt to land its Chang’e 5 mission on the Moon on Tuesday.

The spacecraft’s lander has already separated from the main orbital module and is expected to position itself in low-lunar orbit on Monday. Sources suggest the following timeline for activities on Tuesday:

  • Start of powered descent: 14:48 UTC (9:48 am ET)
  • Lunar landing: 15:15 UTC (10:15 am ET)
  • Drilling for sub-surface samples: 17:15 UTC (12:15 pm ET)

The Change’5 lander—the latest probe in China’s Moon program, which is named after a goddess of the Moon and began back in 2007—is the country’s most ambitious mission to the Moon yet. The probe launched on November 23 and reached lunar orbit a couple of days later.

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