China Sends Unmanned Orbiter to the Moon

On October 24, 2014 China sent a test lunar orbiter into space. Chang’e 5 circled the moon during its eight day mission. The service module of that mission ejected a return capsule on November 1st, and later that same day the capsule safely parachuted back down to Earth.

After the capsule was released the service module arrived at the Earth-Moon Lagrangian (L2) position. There it completed three circles around that point, and then left for lunar orbit.

“It was the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to reach the L2 point, and the service module completed three circles around the point, expanding probe missions,” said Zhao Wenbo, vice director of China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), according to the state-run Xinhua news agency last week.

According to controllers on the ground, the service module’s systems are all operating well. During its orbit around the moon the module will be collecting data to help plan for Chana’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission, which is scheduled for some time in 2017.