The first Chinese mission to fly around the moon and back has been successfully completed. China is planning to carrying out its first unmanned moon landing in 2017.
After an eight-day trip into space, China's first experimental moon orbiter was successfully recovered on Saturday in the northern Inner Mongolia region. The mission was a test run for the country's first unmanned return probe to the lunar surface in 2017, which would make China the third country in the world to meet such a challenge after the US and the former Soviet Union.
China's latest lunar mission aimed to obtain experimental data and testing-technologies about re-entry to Earth's atmosphere for China's fourth lunar probe, Chang'e 5. The military-led State of Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) hopes in three years time to gather samples from the moon's surface during the lunar visit.
Also aboard the rocket was a mini satellite of the airspace-engineering company LuxSpace/OHB from the northern German city of Bremen. The satellite is called Manfred Memorial Moon Mission - or 4M - and is designed to honor the memory of airspace pioneer Manfred Fuchs, who died earlier this year.
Rising global stature
According to state news agency Xinhua, the latest probe, which also marked the first time in almost four decades that a spacecraft made a return journey around the moon, also took "some incredible pictures" of the Earth and its lunar satellite.
Beijing regards its multi-billion-dollar space project as a sign of China's rising global stature and soaring technical expertise. Since sending its first astronaut into space in 2003, China has also launched a temporarily crewed space station and conducted a space walk.
With the world's second-largest economy, China is also currently developing a heavy lift rocket, known as Long March 5, which is needed to launch the more permanent space station, Tiangong 2.
ksb/sb (AP, AFP)