Just as Indian ISRO chief revealed plans to send re-entry mission in December, China completed the feat of its first re-entry mission to the moon with its unmanned orbiter, joining Russia and the US four decades later.
China’s feat of test lunar orbiter landed in Siziwang Banner of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region about 500 kilometres away from Beijing on Saturday morning about a week after its test launch to go to the Moon’s orbit and return to Earth.
China’s orbiter travelled 840,000 km to Moon’s orbit, obtained data and tested re-entry technology with its heat resistant and trajectory design for a future moon mission by Chang’e-5 scheduled in 2017.
After completing an 8-day mission, the vehicle enetered the Earth at a velocity of about 11.2 km per second facing immense friction on the craft’s exterior, and bounced off its pre-designed edge to slow down to successfully re-enter earth’s atmosphere again, said Zhou Jianliang of the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Centre.
“Really, this is like braking a car. The faster you drive, the longer the distance you need to bring the car to a complete stop,” Zhou said. Just an error of 0.2 degrees would exploded the mssion in mid-air, he said.
The mission is a test run for China’s ambitious three-step re-entry program, including orbiting, landing on moon and returning successfully.