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Success of lunar orbiter paves way for 2017 mission

2014-11-02 11:13 CNTV Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

China's experimental lunar orbiter is a precursor to the last phase of China's three-step lunar probe project, set to take place in 2017.

The mission aimed to validate technologies like navigation and control systems.

This is China's first orbiter capable of orbiting the moon and returning to Earth, but there were many challenges.

Chief among these was ensuring the test orbiter reached the right speed at the right time if it was to return to Earth in one piece. If the orbiter moved too fast, engineers risked losing control of it.

Experts say each of the mission's three stages, orbiting, landing on the moon and returning to Earth, are closely linked.

The first two stages took years for China to achieve. In 2007, the Chang'e-1 mission successfully orbited the moon, captured three-dimensional images of lunar landforms as well as maps of geological structures. Then last year, during the Chang'e-3 mission, China's first rover "Jade Rabbit" landed on the moon's surface and sent data back to Earth.

The third stage, collecting lunar soil samples and bringing them back to Earth, is the next and final objective.

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