China Becomes Third Nation to Return From Moon Orbit


Saturday 1st November, China became the third country to launch a successful test mission to the Moon and back. China now joins the company of the former Soviet Union and the United States, the only other two nations to have achieved the feat. The space probe’s successful launch and return marks the first time in 40 years that a nation has completed a mission of this kind.

The test lunar orbiter, referred to as “Xiaofei,” landed back in China, in Siziwang Banner of the country’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in the early hours of Saturday morning. Xiaofei was launched on Friday, 24 October and completed its eight-day mission around the moon, covering a distance of 840,000 kilometers. On its way back, it approached the Earth at a velocity of approximately 11.2 kilometers per second.

The toughest challenge of the mission was allegedly getting the “bounce” right, which is the rocket’s ability to bounce off the edge of the atmosphere when approaching Earth, in order to ensure that it slows down enough to land properly and safely. Click the link to discover more on China’s lunar debut.

The launch of the test lunar orbiter was part of the final phase of China’s three-step lunar program. The country plans to launch Chang’e 5, its first lunar sample return mission, in 2017. If this succeeds as well, China will also become the first country to successfully collect samples from the Moon.


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