News of a successful Chinese lunar return mission has been lost amidst the glare of private US space set-backs. Reports of the first Chinese return flight to the Moon have been overshadowed by the spectacular Orbital Sciences launch pad explosion and the tragic Virgin Galactic Spaceship2 disintegration that have dominated space news over the past few days.
The Chang’e 5-T1 capsule is the first craft to return from the Moon in four decades. The 8-day mission sent “Xiaofei” (little flyer) within 13,000km of the Moon’s surface, taking photos of the surface and of the Earth and Moon suspended in the blackness of space. Two ‘skips’ off the Earth’s atmosphere were used to decrease its 11 km/sec return speed before entering the atmosphere and touching down in the wilderness of China’s Inner Mongolia.
The Chinese lunar rover dubbed “Yutu”, which landed last December, can’t move but is still sending data back to Earth.