China Gets A Step Closer To Their Lunar Sample Return Mission

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China's Chang'e 5 test vehicle has successfully completed the most recent stage of its lunar return technology demonstration. Launched on October 24th, the spacecraft swung around the far side of the moon, snapped a gorgeous photo of home, and safely returned to Earth on Halloween.

Top image: Chang'e 5 launch on October 24, 2014. Credit: Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing


The Chang'e 5 spacecraft launched on October 24, swinging up and around the moon, and returning to Earth on October 31.

The Chang'e spacecraft series are part of a series of missions of increasing difficulty with the ultimate end-objective of performing a lunar sample return. The primary purpose of this specific mission was to test out the vehicle in operational conditions. The same vehicle model will be used for the eventual lunar sample return mission in a few years. The Chang'e spacecraft series are named for Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess.


Scientists checking on Chang'e 5 spacecraft after landing on October 31, 2014. Image credit: Xinhua


Only the sample return module came back to Earth: the service module reached a gravitationally-stable Lagrange point and is hanging out in space.

This is a impressive moment of victory amongst the catastrophes plaguing spaceflight this week. Unlike the style of North American spaceflight programs, footage of Chinese space agency launches are not broadcast live.


Chang'e 5 T1 launch. Image credit: Xinhua