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China’s Chang’e-5 completes first orbital correction en route to Earth

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BEIJING: China’s Chang’e-5 probe, that touched down on the moon and collected rock samples from the lunar surface to bring them back to Earth for the first time in nearly 45 years, completed its first orbital correction on Monday, the country’s space agency announced.

The orbital correction was conducted at 11:13 am (Beijing Time) when the two 25N engines on the orbiter-returner combination were operational for about 28 seconds, China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The CNSA said all systems on the orbiter-returner combination that carries lunar samples are currently in good condition.

The Chang’e-5 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner was launched on November 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon on December 1.

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

The orbiter-returner combination entered the moon-Earth transfer orbit on Sunday.

When the time is right, the orbiter and returner will separate from one another, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted CNSA as saying.

The probe’s returner is expected to land at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in mid-December.

Chang’e-5 is world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years. The United States sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples. In the Soviet Union’s unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.

The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, is expected to bring about 2 kilogrammes of lunar samples back to Earth.

China chose a complicated technological approach, including unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, in order to bring back more samples and lay a technological foundation for manned lunar missions, Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Centre of the CNSA, had said last week.

The Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in Chinese aerospace history, as well as the world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.

The collected samples will now be put in a return capsule for the trip home, expected to land in Inner Mongolia.

If the mission is successful, it will make China only the third country to return samples from the moon, more than 50 years after the US Apollo missions. The last successful lunar sample return mission was the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

Beijing is looking to match its rivals’ – the US and Russia – achivements and has poured billions into its military-run space programme.

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