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China Lunar Mission to Go There and Back Again

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August 12, 2014

China is set to launch a recoverable orbiter to the Moon, the last step in a three-stage exploration process. The country will test the re-entry capsule for that mission in October.

The Chang'e-5 mission, set for launch in 2017 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, will gather samples from the lunar surface and a few feet below the surface and then return, becoming the country's first probe to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. The probe will join Jade Rabbit, China's existing lunar rover, which was launched on a one-way mission earlier this year and is still sending back periodic data, including observations of space entities such as quasars and binary stars.

Chang'e is the mythological goddess of the Moon, living in a palace with her pet Yutu (Jade Rabbit).

Chang'e has been part of the name of all of China's lunar missions. Earlier missions (Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2) had orbited and observed the Moon. The mission that put Jade Rabbit on the Moon was Chang'e 3. The October test will be Chang'e 4.

China is said to be planning for a station in lunar orbit by 2020 and a manned lunar mission sometime thereafter.





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