Credit: New China TV

China Central Television (CCTV) reports that the country’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe has successfully decelerated near the Moon Wednesday

This is a vital step forward leading to the spacecraft’s attempt to make the first-ever soft landing on the farside of the Moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

Chang’e-4 Moon lander and rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Elliptical lunar orbit

CCTV reports that after flying about 110 hours from the Earth, an engine on the probe was ignited when it was 80 miles (129 kilometers) above the lunar surface, in line with instructions sent from a control center in Beijing at 16:39. Then the probe slowed and entered an elliptical lunar orbit with the perilune (low point) at about 62 miles (100 kilometers) at 16:45, said CNSA.

The probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket last Saturday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

Candidate landing region of China’s Chang’e-4 lander within Von Kármán crater in SPA basin.
Credit: Jun Huang, et al.

Communication link testing

As the rocket was able to send the probe into orbit precisely as planned, CCTV reports, the control center only adjusted the probe’s orbit once on Sunday and also canceled two pre-planned orbit trimmings before the near-Moon deceleration, according to CNSA.

Next, the control center will adjust the probe’s orbit around the moon and test the communication link between the probe and the relay satellite “Queqiao,” which is operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system. The relay satellite was launched last May.

“Afterward, the control center will choose a proper time to land the probe on the farside of the Moon,” CCTV reports.

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