First Look: Chang'e 5

LROC NAC image of Chang'e 5 02 December 2020
Box indicates Chang'e 5 lander on the basaltic plains of Oceanus Procellarum ("Ocean of Storms") on 02 December 2020 09:54 EST (14:53:55 UTC). The lander is the bright spot in the center of the outline. Image is 1210 meters wide; north is up. LROC NAC M1361560086R [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

China's Chang'e 5 sample return spacecraft made a safe touchdown on the lunar surface at 10:11 EST (15:11 UTC) 01 December 2020. LRO passed over the site the following day and acquired an off-nadir (13° slew) image showing the lander centered within  a triangle of craters. The LROC team computed the coordinates of the lander to be 43.0576° N, 308.0839°E, –2570 m elevation, with an estimated accuracy of plus-or-minus 20 meters.

WAC context mosaic showing regional view of Chang'e 5 landing site
LROC Wide Angle Camera context mosaic; Chang'e 5 landed in the center of the white box. The channel, or rille, winding across the upper right was formed by an eruption of basaltic lava more than a billion years ago. The bright area to the south is a massif of older terrain protruding through the mare basalts. North is up, image is 61 kilometers wide [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The local geology consists of a broad, flat mare basalt unit. Similar to flood basalts on the Earth, this deposit was the result of a massive outpouring of highly fluid basaltic lavas. In the lunar case, this massive eruption occurred somewhere between one and two billion years ago. Chang'e 5 is now in the process of returning a small sample of this volcanic unit to Earth so that scientists can precisely determine its age and chemistry.

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Published by Mark Robinson on 4 December 2020