China's National Space Administration (CNSA) said the orbiter-returner hybrid of China's Chang'e 5 moon probe shot two of the engines to tweak its direction in orbit. 

CNSA said per CGTN that at 11:13 am local time (10:13 EDT), the Chinese lunar probe completed its orbital correction. The entirety of the operation lasted around 28 seconds.

The returner would detach from the orbiter and go back to Earth independently, bearing lunar samples. 

The mixture performed its second moon-Earth transfer maneuver on Sunday and reached the moon-Earth fusion orbit.

China's new lunar exploration has taken one phase closer to success as the Chang'e 5 spacecraft performed the first of two modifications to its direction, increasing hopes of an impending return to earth.

Science Times - Chang’e 5 Spacecraft Decelerates, Enters Lunar Orbit
(Photo : Kaynouky on Wikimedia Commons)
Elevation map of the Moon with the localization of the landing sites of successful sample return missions and the designated landing region of Chang'e 5. The darker regions have low elevation, while the brighter regions have high elevation. The map was made by NASA.

How was Chang'e 5's experience?

China Daily said the spacecraft successfully changed direction from a near-circular orbit into an elliptical orbit on Saturday after spending six days orbiting the planet.

According to China Daily, China National Space Administration said the system started its second moon-earth transition injection maneuver. 

It triggers four 150-newton-thrust turbines at an average elevation of 230 kilometers just above the lunar floor. 

For around 22 minutes, the engines worked and pushed the spacecraft onto a trajectory of moon-Earth transition.

It is anticipated that the second alternation would cause the spacecraft to break free from the pull of the moon and set it on a course toward earth. 

Any time between Tuesday and Thursday, Chang'e 5 is expected to arrive in Inner Mongolia.

The project is the first in more than four decades to carry rocks from the moon to earth, and after the United States and the Soviet Union, China would become the third nation to do so.

Since launching from the southern island of Hainan on November 24, it took about five days to fly before Chang'e-5 reached the moon.

On December 1, Chang'e 5 landed near the moon's mountain in the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) section.

Using a robotic arm, the lander gathered about 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) of rock and soil from the surface and drilled about 2 meters (6.6ft) down to gather 500 grams of underground samples.

The US Apollo program took 382 kilograms (more than 840 lbs) of lunar samples back to the planet over six flights, while the Soviet Union recovered around 300 grams (approximately 0.66 lbs) of moon samples from three uncrewed missions.

Following the lift-off from the moon on December 3, there were few slight hiccups. The ascender spacecraft carrying the lunar samples was tracked by a chain of satellite stations in Argentina, China, Namibia, and the Pacific Ocean.

According to Chinese state media, its contact skill was taken to the max, prompting a temporary pause in live-stream imagery from its on-board photos with too many stations monitoring the spacecraft.

Nonetheless, Chang'e 5 returned to good shape shortly after the glitch. A dynamic docking maneuver that included the ascender spacecraft joining up with and then moving the lunar rocks to the orbiter was successfully performed.

In China's experience of lunar exploration, this project is by far the most complicated. 

Previous missions have accomplished only one job, such as walking on the moon or sending a spaceship to reach the moon's orbit. Both were called after the moon goddess Chang'e. Chang'e 5 effectively merged these both previous roles.

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