Launched on Nov. 24, the Chinese spacecraft comprises an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a returner. Its lander-ascender combination touched down in the Ocean of Storms on Dec. 1. After the samples were collected and sealed, the ascender of Change-5 took off from the lunar surface.
“An engine, after working for about six minutes, pushed the ascender to preset lunar orbit,” said Xing Zhuoyi, a designer of the Change-5 probe from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
Different from the ground takeoff, the ascender could not rely on a launch tower system. The lander acted as a temporary "launching pad." The lunar liftoff conquered many challenges, including limited diversion space for the engine plume and different environments between Earth and the moon.
Without any navigation constellation around the moon, the ascender used its own special sensors to conduct self-positioning and attitude determination after the takeoff, assisted by the ground monitoring and control system.