An unmanned Chinese probe successfully returned to earth yesterday after circumnavigating the moon, bolstering the country’s status as a space power.
The probe, officially known as Chang’e 5-T1, broke through the earth’s atmosphere at 6.13am local time on Saturday and landed in Inner Mongolia.
It is the first time in almost 40 years that a spacecraft has returned to earth after travelling around the earth’s only natural satellite.
Dubbed “Xiaofei” or “Little Flyer”, the probe travelled at speeds of up to 25,000mph and was more than 250,000 miles from the earth at its furthest point.
Where to explore in the solar system
Where to explore in the solar system
1/10 Mars - Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the Solar System. At 22km high Olympus Mons is nearly three times as high as Mt Everest
2/10 Mars - Mount Sharp
Mount Sharp is the current focus point of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover. Sitting at the forefront of Martian research this location will hopefully unlock the secrets of Mars’s past.
3/10 Ida and Dactyl
Nestled deep within the asteroid belt is the asteroid 243 Ida. During a fly by of the Galileo space probe it was discovered that Ida had a companion. Orbiting around Ida was a tiny moon that was named Dactyl.
4/10 Jupiter - The Red Spot
Getting tired of leisurely cruises through the Caribbean? Why not float a dirigible through one of the oldest known storms in the Solar System. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is large enough to contain three Earths and has been present for over 300 years.
5/10 Moon - Sea of Tranquility
As the landing site of the first ever humans to set foot on the Moon who wouldn’t want to walk in the footsteps on Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility?
6/10 Europa - Underwater seas
Europa’s underwater seas are one of the strongest candidates for potential life outside Earth. Scientists are waiting the day we can probe their icy depths.
7/10 Titan - Methane Lakes
Saturn’s Moon Titan is home to a nice thick atmosphere. Similar to the Earth it supports a full weather cycle. Unlike the Earth, rather than using water, Titan’s cycle is based on methane, often found in gas cookers here on Earth.
8/10 Mimas, the Death Moon
What better location for a holiday snap. The large Herschel crater on Mimas gives this moon an appearance of a certain dark lords ultimate weapon. When viewed from the right angle it appears that the Death Star is in orbit around Saturn.
The thick clouds of Venus make it an extremely mysterious place. It also has some of the most extreme weather we can find. Runaway greenhouse gases have shrouded the planet in a thick layer of cloud, heating it to nearly 600°C. It is also home to sulphuric acid rain and crushing atmospheric pressure. Make sure you pack a sturdy umbrella!
10/10 Oceans of Earth
One of the most unexplored places in the Solar System is our own oceans. 70% of the Earth is covered in ocean and as of yet we have only explored around 10% of them. With so much water to explore who knows what we may find lurking in the depths.
A Soviet-era method, where the craft bounces off the earth’s atmosphere, was used to slow the probe down on its descent to earth and avoid it burning up.
China plans to send another craft to the moon in 2017 to collect soil samples. If successful, China would become only the third country, after the United States and Russia, to accomplish such an achievement.
The rising eastern superpower has already embarked on other space exploration missions, including sending two probes to the moon that did not return, and there are plans for crewed space missions in the future.
One of the country’s rovers, the Jade Rabbit, which reached the moon on 14 December 2013, is still on the satellite’s surface but has failed to complete its mission, after equipment malfunctioned in January this year.
Beijing sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation to independently realise manned space travel.
Additional Reporting by APReuse content