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China's Chang'e-6 Completes Docking in Lunar Orbit with Samples Transferred to Returner

By Xinhua|Jun 07,2024

This video animation image displayed at Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) on June 6, 2024 shows the ascender of China's Chang'e-6 probe rendezvousing and docking with the probe's orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit. (Photo/Xinhua)

Beijing - The ascender of China's Chang'e-6 probe successfully rendezvoused and docked with the probe's orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit at 2:48 p.m. (Beijing Time) on Thursday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

The container carrying the world's first samples from the far side of the moon had been transferred from the ascender to the returner safely by 3:24 p.m., the CNSA said.

After the ascender took off from the far side of the moon on Tuesday morning and entered lunar orbit, it made four orbital adjustments. When the ascender was about 50 km in front of and 10 km above the orbiter-returner combination, the combination gradually approached the ascender through short-range autonomous control and captured it with holding claws.

This is the second time that Chinese spacecraft carried out rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, with Chang'e-5 realizing the first one in 2020.

The orbiter-returner combination will later separate from the ascender and prepare to return to Earth at an appropriate time.

After the moon-Earth transfer and separation of the orbiter and returner, the returner is expected to land with lunar samples at Siziwang Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as planned.

The Chang'e-6 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on May 3. Its lander-ascender combination touched down at the designated landing area in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the moon's far side on June 2, and completed sampling in two days. The ascender, with precious samples, lifted off from the lunar surface and entered the preset lunar orbit on Tuesday morning.


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