Chang'e Flees to the Moon

Chang'e Flees to the Moon

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Chang'e Flees to the Moon - History

The story is sometimes taken further. By drinking the elixir, Chang E became immortal, and the gods were therefore unable to punish her presumption with death. Instead they changed her into a frog. The frog represents rain and is associated with the hazy moon that indicates the coming of rain. The frog who lives in the moon sometimes tries to swallow it, another early attempt to explain eclipses. Attempting to swallow the moon became a Daoist metaphor for the unattainable.

Chang E is wearing Yoshitoshi’s conception of archaic Chinese robes – ribbons flutter as she floats over a sea of clouds. The clouds are printed in yellow, black and gray, with the white edges of the clouds left unprinted. The printing process flattens the fibers of the paper, leaving unprinted areas standing in relief with the natural, rough texture of the paper. The pink of the moon behind Chang E is a very fugitive color, which will lose its freshness in a matter of days if exposed to sunlight.

Chang E’s face is foreshortened as she looks down at the jade container, which has a frog on its cover. Rather than use the traditional conventions of woodblock prints, Yoshitoshi often showed his figures from unusual angles. This enabled him to give a larger range of expressions to his characters, increasing his ability to convey mood.

A fascinating discovery has recently been made in China. Wall paintings that illustrate a procession of the Royal Mother of the West have been found in a tomb in Henan which dates from 49 B.C., when Chang E’s story was already ancient. Included in the procession are symbols associated with the deity, all of which are represented in the Moon Series a white moon (representing the yin, or female, essence), a frog (the metamorphosis of Chang E), a rabbit, a nine-tailed fox, and a sacred cassia tree. The roots of Chinese and Japanese mythology run very deep.

And, A Different Story Behind the Print

Source: Minneapolis Institute of the Arts[]=13&dept[]=1&cc=Japan
According to Chinese legend, the archer Hou Yi shot down nine of the ten suns whose combined heat threatened to destroy the earth. As a reward, the Queen Mother of the West gave Hou Yi an elixir of immortality. Hou Yi's wife, Chang-E, unwittingly drank the potion herself. Rising to the moon, she has lived there ever since within the crystal walls of her "Cold Palace."

During the eighth lunar cycle each year, when the Chinese believe that the moon is at its fullest, they make offerings to Chang-E in the form of small round cakes and sphere-shaped fruit. Although the story of Chang-E is not popular in Japan, Yoshitoshi drew upon the Chinese legend for this design.

Chang'e Flees to the Moon - History

Classic painting features Lady Chang’e and her pet, the Jade Rabbit, in the Palace of the Moon.

There are several legends about the moon fairy lady Chang&rsquoE. The most popular on goes like that, in the distant past, there used to be 10 suns in the sky one year. The scorching heat dried up the lake and people were at death&rsquos door. Just at that time, a hero named Hou Yi heard about this predicament. With his extraordinary power, he then pulled his supernatural bow and shot 9 needless suns down on the peak of Mount Kunlun.

Hou Yi of course made distinguished contributions to people and was respected, loved and supported by them. A large number of persons of ideals and integrity flocked to Hou Yi to take him as their teacher and seek instructions out of admiration. Among those learners, there was no lack of the treacherous and cunning learner, such as a learner named Peng Meng.

Before long, Hou Yi got married to a beautiful and virtuous girl named Chang&rsquoe. They loved each other very much and got along very well. One day, Hou Yi went to Mount Kunlun to meet friends when he encountered the Queen of Heaven who gave him an elixir of life. It was said that half of the elixir could make a person live forever and the whole elixir could make a person become an immortal instantly.

However, Hou Yi was unwilling to leave his wife, and he gave the elixir of life to Chang&rsquoe for safekeeping. Chang&rsquoe put the elixir of life into a case of her dressing table, which was seen by Peng Meng who was very treacherous. Three days later, when Hou Yi went out for hunting with his disciples, the disingenuous Peng Meng pretended to be ill, so he didn&rsquot go with them. Shortly after their leave, Peng Meng broke into Hou Yi&rsquos House with a double-edged sword in his hand. Peng Meng threatened Chang&rsquoe to hand over the elixir of life. Chang&rsquoe knew that she couldn&rsquot manage to protect the elixir of life.

So, at a crisis, Chang&rsquoe fetched the elixir of life from the case and swallowed it promptly. Suddenly, Chang&rsquoe floated away from the ground, dashed out of the window and flew towards the sky. It was said that Chang&rsquoe became an immortal and stayed on the moon which was the nearest to the earth as she was anxious about his husband Hou Yi.

At nightfall, Hou Yi went back home and was told what happened during his absence from his maids. Hou Yi became extremely enraged and he immediately went to kill Peng Meng. However, Peng Meng had already escaped. The heart-stricken Hou Yi shouted to the sky and shouted Chang&rsquoe, just at that time he surprisingly discovered the moon was extremely bright and clear that night and he caught sight of a swaying figure that was exactly like Chang&rsquoe.

Hou Yi hastily asked his maids to put an incense table in the back garden and put fresh fruits and moon cakes which were the favorite food of Chang&rsquoe on the table, holing a memorable ceremony for Chang&rsquoe who lived on the distant moon. When the local people heard that Chang&rsquoe flew to the sky and became an immortal on the moon, they all arranged incense tables below the moon for the worship of the goodness Chang&rsquoe, praying for happiness and safeness. Since then, worshipping and appreciating the moon during Mid-autumn festival has become popular until now.

Chang'e was Houyi’s wife, but one day she drank the potion of immortality and floated to the moon (Ma Ma’s version of the tale). Her story has changed throughout the centuries with many interpretations such as Auntie Mei saying that Chang'e took two immortality pills out of greed instead of sharing them with Houyi, so as to be the only one to live forever.

When she arrived on the moon, Chang'e described it to be a desert, but her friend and companion, Jade, created a potion that was able bring light to the darkness. Over time, he and Chang'e created the queendom of Lunaria, as the song Ultraluminary tells.

At some point in her life, she banished Gobi, who tried to convince the Goddess to let go of Houyi, and in her anger and denial, caused The Great Darkness.

When Fei Fei, Chin, Bungee and Croak arrived, she sent her lions to look for them.

Chang’e introduced them to herself and Lunaria with the song Ultraluminary. She took a photo with Fei Fei afterwards, but would only give it to her if she brought her the gift. When she realised that Fei Fei had lost her gift, she wagered a competition with the Lunarians that any of their wishes would be granted to whomsoever returned the gift back to her.

When Chin attempted to get the photo, she locked him and herself up at the Interrogation Chamber, resulting in the events of Hey Boy. Chang’e didn’t win, but trapped the boy in there anyways, breaking the deal that the two had made.

As the time to get Houyi back was being less and less, Chang'e broke down in tears once she processed the realization that she may never see her husband again. She used her powers in rage to cause a meteor shower, otherwise known as being Astronomically Upset.

When she got The Gift, she met Houyi again in the song Yours Forever. However, their moment was not to last, with Houyi telling Chang'e that he cannot stay and as he faded away, told her it was time to let him go and move on.

Realizing that her true love was truly gone and never coming back, Chang'e fell into despair and once again caused the big darkness, locking herself within The Chamber of Exquisite Sadness. When Fei Fei joined her, the two had a conversation about loss, and left.

With the help of Fei Fei, Chang'e realised that she had been loved all this time by her creations was finally able to let go of Houyi. She gratefully bid Fei Fei and Chin farewell, sending them back to Earth.


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Chang’e, Wade-Giles romanization Ch’ang O, the Chinese moon goddess whose loveliness is celebrated in poems and novels. She sought refuge in the moon when her consort, Hou Yi (the Lord Archer), discovered she had stolen the drug of immortality given to him by the gods. Hou Yi’s pursuit was impeded by the Hare, who would not let the irate husband pass until he promised reconciliation.

Each year on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, Chinese people celebrate the memory of Chang’e with a “Mid-Autumn Festival” ( Zhongqiu Jie). With a full moon shining in the heavens, “moon cakes” are eaten and offered as gifts to friends and neighbours. Many go outside to view the supposed outline of a toad on the surface of the moon, for this creature, according to one legend, is now Chang’e. At one time she was called Hong’e, but the name became taboo when two Chinese emperors took it as their own.

A typical painting shows Chang’e floating toward the moon, often with her palace in the background. The Hare is sometimes present, preparing the drug of immortality. Statues more often represent her holding a moon disk in her raised right hand.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Matt Stefon, Assistant Editor.

How Did The Moon Cakes Evolve?

How the traditions regarding moon cakes all started is still a mystery. There are historical records that do offer clues on how it all started and evolved.

The ‘Tai Shi’ Cake

According to historical records, as early as in the Yin and Zhou dynasties (circa 1300 B.C. – 1046 B.C.), there was a kind of “tai shi cake” with thick filling and thin crust in memory of the imperial tutor in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, which was the “ancestor” of the moon cakes.

The Introduction of Sesame and Walnuts in the Han Dynasty

In the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. – 220 A.D.), when Zhang Qian was on his diplomatic mission to the Western Regions, he introduced sesame and walnut as supplementary materials for the preparation of moon cakes. At this time, round cakes filled with walnut seeds appeared, which were known as “hu cakes“.

Tang Dynasty Emperor Introduces the Name: ‘Moon Cake’

In the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.), there were pastry chefs engaged in the production of such cakes, and pastry shops began to appear in Chang ‘An, the capital city. It is said that on the night of one year’s Mid-Autumn festival, the emperor Tang Taizong and his concubine Yang Guifei were having hu cakes while enjoying the full moon, Tang Taizong didn’t like the name “hu cake”, Yang Kuifei looked up at the moon and suggested the name “moon cake”, from then on, the name has gradually spread among the people.

Legend aside, the first written record of the word moon cake (月饼, yuè bǐng) was in the book Meng Liang Lu (1274 A.D. by Wu Zimu) in Southern Song Dynasty.

Chang E Flees to the Moon, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon By Yoshitoshi Tsukioka

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The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is designed to be conducted in four [13] phases of incremental technological advancement: The first is simply reaching lunar orbit, a task completed by Chang'e 1 in 2007 and Chang'e 2 in 2010. The second is landing and roving on the Moon, as Chang'e 3 did in 2013 and Chang'e 4 did in 2019. The third is collecting lunar samples from the near-side and sending them to Earth, a task for the future Chang'e 5 and Chang'e 6 missions. The fourth phase consists of development of a robotic research station near the Moon's south pole. [13] [14] [15] The program aims to facilitate a crewed lunar landing in the 2030s and possibly build an outpost near the south pole. [16]

In January 2004, China's lunar orbiter project was formally established. [17] The first Chinese lunar orbiter, Chang'e 1, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 24 October 2007 [18] and entered lunar orbit on 5 November. [19] The spacecraft operated until 1 March 2009, when it was intentionally crashed into the surface of the Moon. [20] Data gathered by Chang'e 1 were used to create an accurate and high-resolution 3D map of the entire lunar surface, assisting site selection for the Chang'e 3 lander. [21] [22]

Chang'e 1's successor, Chang'e 2, was approved on October 2008 [17] and was launched on 1 October 2010 to conduct research from a 100-km-high lunar orbit, in preparation for Chang'e 3's 2013 soft landing. [23] Chang'e 2, though similar in design to Chang'e 1, was equipped with improved instruments and provided higher-resolution imagery of the lunar surface to assist in the planning of the Chang'e 3 mission. In 2012, Chang'e 2 was dispatched on an extended mission to the asteroid 4179 Toutatis. [24]

The official mission objective is to achieve China's first soft-landing and roving exploration on the Moon, as well as to demonstrate and develop key technologies for future missions. [25] [26] [27] The scientific objectives of Chang'e 3 include lunar surface topography and geology survey, lunar surface material composition and resource survey, Sun-Earth-Moon space environment detection, and lunar-based astronomical observation. [25] Chang'e 3 will attempt to perform the first direct measurement of the structure and depth of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 m (98 ft), and investigate the lunar crust structure down to several hundred meters deep. [28]

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program has been divided into three main operational phases, which are: [25]

Launch Edit

Chang'e 3 was launched at 17:30 UTC on 1 December 2013 (01:30 local time on 2 December) atop a Long March 3B rocket flying from Launch Complex 2 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan. [29]

Homes downrange of the Launch Centre were damaged during liftoff when spent hardware wreckage from the rocket, including one piece the size of a desk, fell on a village in Suining County in neighbouring Hunan province. The county authorities had moved 160,000 people to safety before the liftoff, while more than 20,000 people near the launch site in Sichuan had been moved to a primary school auditorium. The expected wreckage zone for Long March rockets is 50 to 70 kilometres (31 to 43 mi) long and 30 km (19 mi) wide. [29] [30]

Landing Edit

Chang'e 3 entered a 100 km (62 mi)-high circular lunar orbit on 6 December 2013, 9:53 UTC. The orbit was obtained after 361 seconds (6 minutes) of variable thrust engine braking from its single main engine. [31] Later, the spacecraft adopted a 15 km (9.3 mi) × 100 km (62 mi) elliptic orbit. The landing took place one week later, on 14 December. At periapsis, its variable thrusters were again fired in order to reduce its velocity, descending to 100 m (330 ft) above the Moon's surface. It hovered at this altitude, moving horizontally under its own guidance to avoid obstacles, before slowly descending to 4 m (13 ft) above the ground, at which point its engine was shut down for a free-fall onto the lunar surface. The landing sequence took about 12 minutes to complete.

Topographic data from the Chang'e 1 and 2 orbiters were used to select a landing site for Chang'e 3. The planned landing site was Sinus Iridum, [32] but the lander actually descended on Mare Imbrium, about 40 km (24.9 mi) south of the 6 km (3.7 mi) diameter crater Laplace F, [33] [34] at 44.1214°N, 19.5116°W (2640 m elevation) (1.6 mi), [35] on 14 December 2013, 13:11 UTC. [10] [26] [36]

Lander Edit

With a landing mass of 1,200 kg (2,600 lb), it also carried and deployed the 140 kg (310 lb) rover. [3] It serves double-duty as a technology demonstrator to be further refined for the planned 2019 Chang'e 5 sample-return mission. [37] [38]

The stationary lander is equipped with a radioisotope heater unit (RHU) in order to heat its subsystems and power its operations, along with its solar panels, during its planned one-year mission. It has a scientific payload of seven instruments and cameras. In addition to their lunar scientific roles, the cameras will also acquire images of the Earth and other celestial bodies. [1] During the 14-day lunar nights, the lander and the rover go into 'sleep mode'. [25]

Lunar-based ultraviolet telescope (LUT) Edit

The lander is equipped with a 50 mm (2.0 in) Ritchey–Chrétien telescope that is being used to observe galaxies, active galactic nuclei, variable stars, binaries, novae, quasars and blazars in the near-UV band (245–340 nm), and is capable of detecting objects at a brightness as low as magnitude 13. The thin exosphere and slow rotation of the Moon allow extremely long, uninterrupted observations of a target. The LUT is the first long term lunar-based astronomical observatory, making continuous observations of important celestial bodies to study their light variation and better improve current models. [39] [40] [41]

Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) camera Edit

The lander also carries an extreme ultraviolet (30.4 nm) camera, [42] which will be used to observe the Earth's plasmasphere in order to examine its structure and dynamics and to investigate how it is affected by solar activity. [28]

Lander cameras Edit

Three panoramic cameras are installed on the lander, facing different directions. The lander is equipped with a single descent camera that was tested on the Chang'e 2 spacecraft. [39]

Soil probe Edit

The Chang'e 3 lander also carries an extensible soil probe. [39] [43]

Rover Edit

The development of the six-wheeled rover began in 2002 at the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute and was completed in May 2010. [44] [45] The rover has a total mass of approximately 140 kg (310 lb), with a payload capacity of approximately 20 kg (44 lb). [1] [46] The rover may transmit video in real time, and can perform simple analysis of soil samples. It can navigate inclines and has automatic sensors to prevent it from colliding with other objects.

Energy was provided by 2 solar panels, allowing the rover to operate through lunar days, as well as charging its batteries. At night the rover was powered down to a large extent, and kept from getting too cold by the use of several radioisotope heater units (RHUs) using plutonium-238. [47] The RHUs provide only thermal energy and no electricity.

The rover was deployed from the lander, and made contact with the lunar surface on 14 December, 20:35 UTC. [48] On 17 December it was announced that all of the scientific tools apart from the spectrometers had been activated, and that both the lander and rover were "functioning as hoped, despite the unexpectedly rigorous conditions of the lunar environment". [3] However, from 16 to 20 December the rover did not move, having shut down its subsystems. Direct solar radiation had raised the temperature on the sunlit side of the rover to over 100 °C (212 °F), while the shaded side simultaneously fell below zero. Since then, the lander and rover finished taking pictures of each other and commenced their respective science missions. [49]

The rover was designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) during its 3-month mission, with a maximum travelling distance of 10 km (6.2 mi).

The rover demonstrated its ability to endure its first lunar night when it was commanded out of sleep mode on 11 January 2014. [50] On 25 January 2014, China's state media announced the rover had undergone a "mechanical control abnormality" caused by the "complicated lunar surface environment". [51]

The rover established contact with mission control on 13 February 2014, but it was still suffering from a "mechanical abnormality". [52] The rover was still intermittently transmitting as late as 6 September 2014 [53] It ceased to transmit data in March 2015. [54]

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) Edit

The rover carries a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) on its underside, allowing for the first direct measurement of the structure and depth of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 m (98 ft), and investigation of the lunar crust structure down to several hundred meters deep. [28]

Spectrometers Edit

The rover carries an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer [55] and an infrared spectrometer, intended to analyze the chemical element composition of lunar samples.

Stereo cameras Edit

There are two panoramic cameras and two navigation cameras on the rover's mast, which stands

1.5 m (4.9 ft) above the lunar surface, as well as two hazard avoidance cameras installed on the lower front portion of the rover. [39] Each camera pair may be used to capture stereoscopic images, [56] or for range imaging by triangulation.

The descent of the Chang'e 3 spacecraft was expected to increase the content of lunar dust in the tenuous lunar exosphere, as well as introduce gases from engine firings during landing. Although there is no formal cooperation between NASA and the China National Space Administration, the landing provided an opportunity for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission to examine possible changes to the baseline readings of the Moon's exosphere, and will allow it to study how dust and spent propellant gases settle around the Moon after a landing. [57] [58] For example, one of the lander's combustion byproducts is water vapor, and LADEE may be able to observe how lunar water is deposited in cold traps near the poles. [57] NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) took a photograph of the landing site on 25 December 2013 in which the lander and the rover can be seen. [59] LRO also attempted to photograph the lander and rover on 22 January 2014, and on 18 February 2014. [57]

The rover was still intermittently transmitting as late as 6 September 2014. [53] As of March 2015, the rover remained immobile and its instruments continued degrading, [60] [61] [62] but was still able to communicate with Earth radio stations. [63] [64] [65] [66] While amateur observers were unable to detect transmissions from the lander, Chinese officials reported that the craft was still operating its UV Camera and Telescope as it entered its 14th lunar night on 14 January 2015. [53] [67]

The Yutu rover ceased to transmit data in March 2015. [54] The lander and its Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT) are still operational as of September 2020, seven years after landing on the Moon. [68] [69] The power source for the lander, which consists of a radioisotope heater unit (RHU) and solar panels, could last for 30 years. [70]

The landing site of China's first Moon lander Chang'e-3 has been named "Guang Han Gong(广寒宫) (Guang: widely, extensively Han: cold, freezing;Gong: Palace) " or "Moon Palace" by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). Three nearby impact craters were given the names Zi Wei, Tian Shi and Tai Wei, three constellations in traditional Chinese astrology. [71]

Youngest lunar samples

The last sample returned from the moon was delivered by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 spacecraft in 1976. That mission sent back 170 grams (a little more than a third of a pound) of lunar material directly from the moon’s surface to Earth. Chang’e-5, however, will resemble the more complex Apollo missions—which collected 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of material in all—involving a rendezvous and docking maneuver in lunar orbit.

However, the Apollo samples are all more than three billion years old. Chang’e-5 aims to collect samples that are less than two billion years old, Long says, so scientists will be able to study the late-stage volcanism that shaped the younger parts of the rocky surface we see today.

Mons Rümker, near which Chang’e-5 will land, rises about 3,600 feet above the moon’s Oceanus Procellarum (Latin for “Ocean of Storms”). Oceanus Procellarum is a plain of volcanic rock that formed from past magmatic activity, making up the largest of the dark basaltic plains—known as maria, or “seas”—that are visible on the surface of the moon with the naked eye. Some of the rock in this region is thought to be much younger than all other lunar samples.

The moon’s volcanic history is not the only mystery that Chang’e-5 will attempt to solve, however. The landing area allows for “all kinds of fundamental hypotheses to be tested,” says James Head III, a planetary scientist at Brown University.

Looking at the mineralogy of the rocks and soils near Mons Rümker could help reveal why the region has an unusual and unexplained concentration of certain elements—potassium, rare earth elements, and phosphorus—and a strong radioactive anomaly driven by the elements thorium and uranium. “There are really good fundamental questions to be answered that will change our thinking about the moon big time,” Head says.

The mission could also help calibrate timescales across the entire solar system. Counting the size and number of craters in an area gives clues about the age of the site, because impact craters accumulate at an estimated rate over time. Dating lunar samples can provide more accurate ages not only for the moon’s surface, but also for other pockmarked objects across the solar system, which are often dated by comparing their surfaces to similarly aged regions of the moon.

The new dating analyses “could potentially challenge theories and assumptions and pose new questions” about how our planetary neighborhood formed, says Clive Neal, an expert in lunar geology at the University of Notre Dame.

China launches historic Chang'e 5 mission to collect the first moon samples since 1976

It's been 44 years since humanity last brought lunar samples home.

The first lunar sample-return mission since the 1970s is underway.

China's robotic Chang'e 5 mission launched today (Nov. 23) from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, rising into the sky atop a Long March 5 rocket at about 3:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 local time in Hainan).

If all goes according to plan, the bold and complex Chang'e 5 will haul pristine moon samples back to Earth in mid-December — something that hasn't been done since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976.

Chang'e 5's short mission will be action-packed. The 18,100-lb. (8,200 kilograms) spacecraft will likely arrive in lunar orbit around Nov. 28, then send two of its four modules — a lander and an ascent vehicle — to the lunar surface a day or so later. (Chinese officials have been characteristically vague about Chang'e 5's details, so timeline information has been pieced together from various sources by China space watchers like Space News' Andrew Jones, who also provides articles for

The mission will land in the Mons Rumker area of the huge volcanic plain Oceanus Procellarum ("Ocean of Storms"), portions of which have been explored by a number of other surface missions, including NASA's Apollo 12 in 1969.

The stationary lander will study its environs with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and a spectrometer. But its main job is to snag about 4.4 lbs. (2 kg) of lunar material, some of which will be dug from up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground. This work will be done over the course of two weeks, or one lunar day — a firm deadline, given that the Chang'e 5 lander is solar-powered and won't be able to operate once night falls at its location.

Mons Rumker harbors rocks that formed just 1.2 billion years ago, meaning that Chang'e 5 "will help scientists understand what was happening late in the moon's history, as well as how Earth and the solar system evolved," as the nonprofit Planetary Society noted its description of the mission. (The 842 lbs., or 382 kg, of moon rocks brought home by the Apollo astronauts between 1969 and 1972 are considerably older, providing a window in the deeper lunar past.)

The Chang'e 5 lander will transfer its samples to the ascent vehicle, which will launch them to lunar orbit for a meetup with the other two mission elements, a service module and an attached Earth-return capsule. The moon material will be loaded into the return capsule, which the service module will haul back toward Earth, releasing it shortly before a touchdown scheduled for Dec. 16 or Dec. 17.

"Whereas human-rated vehicles like NASA's Apollo capsule relied solely on strong heat shielding, Chang'e 5 will perform a 'skip reentry,' bouncing off the atmosphere once to slow down before plummeting to a landing in Inner Mongolia," the Planetary Society wrote. "The landing site is the same used for [China's] returning crewed Shenzhou spacecraft."

Chang'e 5, China's first-ever sample-return effort, is the sixth and most ambitious mission in the Chang'e program of robotic lunar exploration, which is named after a moon goddess in Chinese mythology. China launched the Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 orbiters in 2007 and 2010, respectively, and the Chang'e 3 lander-rover duo touched down on the moon's near side in December 2013.

The Chang'e 5T1 mission launched a prototype return capsule on an eight-day trip around the moon in October 2014, to help prepare for Chang'e 5. And in January 2019, Chang'e 4 became the first mission ever to ace a soft landing on the moon's mysterious far side. Chang'e 4's lander and rover are still going strong, as is the Chang'e 3 lander. (The Chang'e 3 rover died after 31 months of work on the lunar surface.)

Chang'e 5 is part of a recent surge in sample-return missions. On Dec. 6, for example, pieces of the asteroid Ryugu collected by Japan's Hayabusa2 mission are scheduled to touch down in Australia. And NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe snagged a hefty sample of the asteroid Bennu last month that material will come down to Earth in September 2023, if all goes according to plan.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018 illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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