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

Katie Ramirez
December 17, 2020

Speaking on the same, China National Space Administration has stated that the Chang'e 5 lunar probe, which had been revolving around the moon for almost a week, ignited four engines for nearly 22 minutes to move out of the orbit of the moon.

China's Chang'e 5 orbiter is heading home on the final leg of its mission to collect fresh lunar samples from the moon.

The return capsule is expected to land in northern China after separating from the rest of the spacecraft and floating down on parachutes.

The craft's lander touched down on the moon earlier this month close to a formation called the Mons Rumker, an area believed to have been the site of ancient volcanic activity. The Chang'e-5, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on November 24.

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.

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When the time is right, the orbiter and returner will separate from one another, according to the CNSA. In the Soviet Union's unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.

The orbiter began firing four 150-Newton engines at 8:51 p.m. EST Saturday (Dec. 12) (0151 GMT, 9:51 am Beijing time Dec. 13) when 143 miles (230 kilometers) above the moon.

Chang'e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China's aerospace history. The material is reportedly the first being brought back since Luna 24 probe by the Soviet Union in 1976.

It is also the world's first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.

Beijing is looking to match its rivals' - the United States and Russian Federation - achivements and has poured billions into its military-run space programme.

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