Sunday, 07 March, 2021


China's spacecraft begins journey from moon to return to Earth

An illustration shows the orbital transfer injection by Chang'e 5's orbiter-reentry capsule combination An illustration shows the orbital transfer injection by Chang'e 5's orbiter-reentry capsule combination
Kristine Garrett | 17 December, 2020, 17:57

The engine was then shut down after 22 minutes as the craft turned towards the Earth, China's National Space Administration said in a statement.

The orbital correction was conducted at 11.13am (Beijing time) when the two 25N engines on the orbiter-returner combination were operational for about 28 seconds.

China's Chang'e 5 orbiter is heading home on the final leg of its mission to collect fresh lunar samples from the moon. (2 kilograms) of lunar samples sits inside a reentry capsule attached to the orbiter.

The Chang'e 5 reentry capsule will first "skip" off the atmosphere once to help it slow down, because a journey back from the moon involves far greater speeds than returning from low Earth orbit.

Chang'e 5 is expected to reach Earth around Wednesday (Dec. 16) and deliver its precious cargo of lunar material collected from the moon's Oceanus Procellarum, or "Ocean of Storms".

After the samples were collected and sealed, the ascender of Chang'e-5 took off from the lunar surface on December 3.

The return capsule is expected to land in northern China after separating from the rest of the spacecraft and floating down on parachutes. The orbiter and returner will separate from one another at the right time.

They may be billions of years younger than those brought back by earlier USA and Soviet missions, possibly offering insights into the moon's history and that of other bodies in the solar system.

On November 24, the Chang'e 5 lunar sample-return mission was successfully launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center in Wenchang, in China's Hainan island province, using the Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle Chang Zheng 5 (Long March 5).

China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, joining the United States and the Soviet Union.

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