Chang'e 5 performs its first moon-Earth transfer injection maneuver

So far, the Chinese Chang'e 5 mission has gone off without a hitch. China has announced the orbiter-reentry capsule of the probe has performed its first moon-Earth transfer injection maneuver. The maneuver was conducted Saturday morning, placing the probe into an elliptical lunar orbit and preparing it to return to Earth.

Before performing the maneuver, Chang'e 5 had been orbiting the moon in a near-circular orbit for the prior six days. According to the China National Space Administration, the moon-Earth transfer injection maneuver allows the spacecraft to move into the appropriate transfer trajectory. The Orbiter-reentry capsule will perform a second injection maneuver in the coming days.

The second injection maneuver will push the spacecraft away from the moon's gravity and put it on its path to return home. Chang'e 5 is carrying two kilograms of lunar rocks and soil inside the reentry capsule. Once the spacecraft returns to Earth orbit, the orbiter and reentry capsule will separate.

Once on its own, the reentry capsule will perform a series of maneuvers to return it to a preset landing site in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the middle of December. Chang'e 5 is the largest and most complicated lunar probe that China has ever produced, featuring four components.

The components included the orbiter, lander, ascender, and re-entry capsule. The spacecraft launched on November 24, and if all goes well for the return mission and reentry, it will be the first mission since 1976 to return lunar samples to Earth. Only the US and Russia have succeeded in returning lunar samples to Earth previously. China's samples were gathered from under the moon's surface after drilling down to meters below the surface for its collection.