The Chinese space probe Chang’e 5 has made its way back to the moon after a long stopover. Hobby astronomers have recognized this, reports SpaceNews. A special capsule from Chang’e 5 had collected around two kilograms of rock on the moon at the end of last year, was then brought to Earth by the orbiter and landed in Mongolia. The soil samples have been studied since then, but Chang’e 5’s scientific mission was not over. The probe was in a stable orbit at the Lagrange point L.1 parked by the earth and the sun before it started moving again.
Several maneuvers possible
As SpaceNews explains, the change in position had been discovered by several amateur astronomers, so it should have taken place at the end of August. The probe is therefore controlled by the Beijing Space Control Center, which has not yet commented on the status of the probe. It is therefore unclear what the further plans will look like and cannot be predicted from the observation data. For example, Chang’e 5 could re-enter orbit around the moon, fly to a different Lagrange point, or even gain momentum on a flyby to reach the asteroid (469219) Kamoʻoalewa. The quasi-satellite of the earth is the target of a Chinese probe mission scheduled for 2024, which is to take samples there.
Chang’e 5 is one of several Chinese missions with which the Chinese space program has rushed from success to success in the past few months. China was only the third nation to use the probe to bring moon rocks to earth, where it can now be analyzed. Previously, the probe with the sample module had carried out the first robot-controlled docking maneuver of a spaceship in orbit around the moon. The tasks that Chang’e 5 can still carry out more than six months after completing this successful primary mission depends primarily on how far the fuel on board still reaches.