China’s efforts to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of moon before returning to Earth moved a step forward as a test spaceship successfully shifted into lunar orbit for further testing.
The Chinese service spacecraft decelerated successfully on Monday, allowing the entrance to an eight-hour orbit, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
The craft was halted around 3 am following the instruction from the base station and then proceeded through an elliptical orbit around the moon with a perilune (or closest point) of nearly 200 kilometers and an apolune (farthest point) of around 5,300 kilometers.
The module will be making a second and third braking operation on January 12 and 13 in the early hours so that it can be allowed to enter the target of 127-minute orbit for testing in preparation for the Chang’e-5 mission, according to center’s chief engineer, Zhou Jianliang.
The lunar orbiter was launched on October 24, 2014.
According to the scientists, the spacecraft was loaded with support systems and it will further collect crucial data to support in planning of the Chang’e-5 mission in the year 2017.
“The first braking is the most crucial. Precise braking must be performed at perilune to prevent it from flying away from the moon,” Zhou said.
The service module was detached from the return capsule of the orbiter on November 1 last year. It returned to Earth after eight days of the mission.
Scientists said that the orbiter was a pilot test for the final steps of three-step lunar program of China. The three steps include orbiting, landing and returning.
The lunar exploration program of China has already set the country’s pair of orbiting probes in motion. In 2013, the Chinese scientists have launched a spacecraft on the moon along with a rover aboard. However, none of those probes returned to the Earth.