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Moon Welcomes Chinese Module Into Orbit

Jan 12, 2015 06:12 PM EST
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China may be more than six decades behind the United States and Russia when it comes to space exploration, but even so, that won't stop them from trying to catch up. The relatively young world power just achieved a lunar milestone of their own, sending an unmanned spacecraft into orbit around the Moon.

And while that may not seem all that impressive - especially considering that the United States put two men on the lunar surface back in 1969 - it still is a historic achievement. That's because for the last several decades, China has always been a nation focused on economic success and stability. With this developed nation now turning its attention to the stars for purely scientific endeavors, there is hope that there could be another contributor in efforts to turn humanity into deep space explorers.

This achievement also follows the recent milestone of India, who successfully put a remarkably inexpensive but efficient orbiter into Martian orbit.

It is important to note that the Chinese lunar orbiter in question is simply a vanguard module intended to "test the waters," so to speak, for the 2017 Chang'e-5 lunar mission.

And even so, it made history of its own, becoming the first Chinese spacecraft to reach and then complete three orbits in the Lagrangian (L2) position between the Earth and the Moon, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. In this tenuous part of space, the service module ejected a capsule designed to validate re-entry technologies that will be used in the 2017 mission, and then speed along to slip into lunar orbit.

The module now orbiting the Moon is loaded with gear to collect data essential for planning the final stages of the 2017 mission, which will send a Chang'e-5 craft around and then onto the lunar surface - collecting samples before returning to Earth.

Interestingly, that mission can almost be seen as a second attempt after China's Yutu lunar rover suddenly encountered catastrophic technical difficulties a month into its mission on the Moon's surface back in 2013.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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