BEIJING — China has ran tests close to the moon simulating an unmanned docking procedure needed in the country’s next lunar mission.
The service module of the unmanned lunar orbiter currently in space to trial such techniques entered a target lunar orbit after breaking maneuvers, and flew to a suitable position for orbital docking between Tuesday and Saturday, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) on March 8.
Liu Jizhong, deputy chief commander of the SASTIND’s lunar probe project, said that the service module has proved the reliability of key technology needed for the docking of two spacecraft in the Chang’e-5 mission.
The Chang’e-5 probe, expected to launch in 2017, will be tasked with landing on the moon, collecting samples and returning to Earth.
The current lunar orbiter was launched on Oct 24, 2014. Part of its service module returned to Earth as planned in November, while the remaining part continues its lunar flight to carry out preset scientific tasks.