Chinese ground crews have been supporting lunar exploration for more than 45 years, bringing back the first new samples of rock and debris from the moon.
The Chang study is expected to land late Wednesday or early Thursday morning in the Sichuan province of the vast Inner Mongolia region.
It fired its engines on Wednesday before the orbit was separated from the return vehicle, with all systems operating as expected, according to the Chinese National Space Administration.
State media have reported that the recovery of the returning vehicle will be complicated by its small size, darkness and heavy snowfall.
Plans are calling for an initial bounce from Earth’s atmosphere to reduce its speed before passing by parachutes, as it is difficult to accurately calculate where it will land, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
State broadcaster CCTV showed four military helicopters parked Wednesday morning on a site in a snow-covered meadow. The crew working on the vehicles on the ground will also seek to receive the signals.
This area is widespread as it is used as a landing site for spacecraft by China’s Shenzhou crew.
Song 5 landed on the moon on December 1 and collected about 2 kg of samples by scooping from the surface and drilling 2 meters into the lunar surface. The samples were placed in a sealed container and transported to the return module by ascending vehicle.
After flying a Chinese flag, the lander ceased operations as soon as it was used as a launch pad, which was ejected from orbit after changing models and came to rest on the surface of the moon.
The spacecraft will return for the first time scientists have received new models of lunar rocks since the 1976 Luna 24 robotic study of the former Soviet Union.
Song 5 exploded on November 23 in Hainan, China’s southern island province, from a travel site expected to last 23 days.
It marks China’s third successful lunar landing, but the only one to be thrown back from the moon.
Its predecessor, Song 4, became the first probe to land on the Moon’s short-explored distances and returns data on conditions that could affect the future stay of humans on the Moon.
The rocks and debris brought by Song 5 are thought to be billions of years younger than those obtained by the United States and the former Soviet Union, providing new insights into the history of the Moon and other bodies in the solar system.
They come from a part of the moon known as the Oceanus Procellerum or Storm Ocean near the site of Mons rumbler, which was believed to be a volcano in ancient times.
Like the 382 kg lunar models brought by American astronauts from 1969 to 1972, they will be analyzed for age and composition and shared with other countries.