Courtesy: China Space

Courtesy: China Space

UPDATE: Chinese space groups and news services are reporting the successful landing of China’s test lunar orbiter, parachuting down in north China’s Inner Mongolia.

Before its reentry to Earth, the spacecraft was moving at a velocity of 11.2 kilometers per second. This speed can generate temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius.

To help the craft slow down, spacecraft controllers employed a reentry method by letting the craft “bounce” off the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, before reentering again.

The reentry angle had to be guided so precisely that a 0.2 degrees deviation would render the mission a failure.

China’s circumlunar test vehicle carried out a “trial by fire” reentry – hotfooting itself back to Earth by performing a skip reentry to slow down. The craft appears to have landed in safe and sound condition under parachute after some eight days of flight.

Zhou Jianliang, chief engineer of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center told China’s Xinhua news agency that there were challenges for the spacecraft to make its way home.

Pre-launch photo shows China's test craft that is now completing a circumlunar flight. Credit: CASC/China Space

Pre-launch photo shows China’s test craft that is now completing a circumlunar flight.
Credit: CASC/China Space

The window for landing was very small and required highly sophisticated telemetry, tracking and command system operations, Zhou said.The test orbiter maneuvered on the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere to slow from a speed of 11.2 kilometers per second before reentry, a process that generated extremely high temperatures.

Launched last Friday (Beijing time), the craft was hurled moonward by a Long March-3C rocket.This moon mission by China is seen as a partial test run for the Chang’e 5 spacecraft flight – part of the country’s multi-step program of lunar exploration.

Chang’e 5’s mission to return collected samples of the Moon’s surface back to Earth is expected in 2017, according to Chinese news sources.

Returned capsule. Courtesy: China Space

Returned capsule. Courtesy: China Space

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