by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Nov 04, 2014
China's maiden lunar orbiter has successfully flown around the far side of the Moon and made a safe landing on Saturday, in what is the first mission of the kind in some 40 years, Xinhua news agency said.
The unmanned test orbiter came down in a designated area, in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the agency said, adding that Chinese researchers had retrieved the spacecraft's capsule to examine its re-entry data which will be used for a planned lunar mission.
The landing marks almost half a century since the last orbiter mission by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, making China the third nation after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so.
The spacecraft was launched into orbit last Friday. During its eight-day mission the space vehicle - dubbed "Xiaofei" ("Little Flier") on the Chinese social media - covered 840,000 kilometers and took some photos of both the Earth and the Moon.
The program has been described as a "test run" for the three-stage Chinese lunar program, Chang'e, to collect samples. The program, named after the Moon Goddess, includes the orbiting (Chang'e 1 and 2), landing (Chang'e 3 and 4) and sample return (Chang'e 5 and 6).
In December, China put a 140-kilogram lunar rover into orbit.
The Yutu rover, whose name translates as Jade Rabbit, made the first soft landing of any probe on the moon in nearly four decades. On January 25, China said the space vehicle had experienced a mechanical control abnormality because of the "complicated lunar surface environment."
The problem occurred shortly before the rover, which was meant to roam the lunar surface for three months while surveying natural resources, went into automatic shutdown for the two-week lunar night.
The landing of the Jade Rabbit on the moon was hailed as a major success of the ambitious Chinese space program, which also includes a permanent space station and manned flights to the moon and Mars.
Source: RIA Novosti
China National Space Administration
Center for Space Science and Applied Research
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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