Spacewatch: China's lunar launcher enters lunar orbit | Science



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The Chinese lunar module Chang-e-4 successfully entered the orbit of the moon.

After a voyage of 240,000 miles (385,000 km) that lasted 110 hours, the spacecraft fired its retrofits on December 12, while only 80 miles above the lunar surface. This has placed her in a stable elliptical orbit, where she will remain until the landing attempt, which is expected for next month.

The Chang-e-4 was launched on Dec. 7 at the top of a Long March-3B rocket at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's Sichuan province.

It is the second spacecraft on the mission of the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) to attempt the first landing on the other side of the moon.

The first spacecraft, a communications relay satellite called Queqiao, was launched on May 20 and is now stationed in its operational orbit about 40,000 miles beyond the moon.

A retransmission satellite is necessary because, once the module is on the other side of the moon, it will not be in sight of the Earth.

A date for the landing attempt has not yet been announced, but is likely to occur in early January, after mission controllers tested all systems.

The spacecraft carries experiments and instruments from several countries, including Germany, Holland, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.

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