Written by Daniel Maloney (News Writer)
Recently, two major events have happened in the spaceflight world. The first of these is the Chang’e 5 Lunar Mission, a Chinese lunar lander, and orbiter made to return samples of the Moon’s surface to Earth. The mission will be the first to return moon samples to Earth since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. The second of these is SpaceX’s Crew Dragon launch to the ISS, which launched four astronauts to the ISS, and was the first fully crewed SpaceX mission to the ISS.
The China National Space Administration’s Chang’e 5 mission launched on November 23rd on a Long March 5 rocket in Hainan Island, China. If everything goes as planned it will land on Earth on December 16th with 4.4 pounds of soil samples and moon rocks from up to 2 meters deep. The mission uses a lunar orbiter and a lander. Then, a separate part of the lander, called the ascender takes off with the samples (occurred on December 5th). This ascender then docks with the orbiter and then it is brought back to Earth. This mission is part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program which started in 2003 and is aimed at a crewed lunar landing mission in the 2030s. The program’s next 3 missions, Chang’e 6, 7, and 8 are going to investigate and explore the moon’s south pole to see if it has resources making it possible for human settlement. These missions are expected to happen from 2023 to 2027.
Another very important event in the spaceflight industry was the Space Crew Dragon launch taking four astronauts to the International Space Station on November 15th. This was done using a Falcon 9 rocket. This is a two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle made for the first stage to be reusable by landing back on Earth after being used in a launch. This was the first non-test mission launching astronauts to the ISS by a private company, and the first launch of an American made rocket to the ISS since the Space Shuttle was decommissioned over 9 years ago. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will return to Earth sometime in May 2021, with the next mission in the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX Crew-2 occurring sometime soon after if everything goes as planned.