​China to launch moon orbiter to test soil recovery mission technologies

AFP Photo / NASA / Lauren Harnett / Handout
China has delivered a spacecraft for launch, which will be sent to the moon later this year to test technologies for its future mission to recover a lunar soil sample.

The orbiter was transported to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province, China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said on Sunday.

After the launch, scheduled before the end of the year, the spacecraft will reach escape velocity and travel to the moon. It will then detach a landing module and use the gravitational pull of the satellite to slingshot back to earth.

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The most important part of the mission will come after the orbiter returns, as its re-entry vehicle will also be tested in its descent.

The mission is designed to verify technologies for a future Chang'e-5 lunar probe, which China plans to launch in 2017 to recover a sample of lunar soil and deliver it back to earth.

Previous stages in the Chang'e program involved mapping the moon surface and landing the Yutu rover last year.

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