|Chang’e-4 spacecraft enters lunar orbit ahead of first-ever far side landing|
Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center (BACC) on Dec. 12, 2018. Credit: CLEP
HELSINKI — China’s Chang’e-4 lander and rover spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit Wednesday following a four-and-half-day flight to the moon.
The spacecraft entered an elliptical lunar polar orbit with a perilune of 100 kilometers at 3:45 a.m. Eastern (08:45 UTC) Dec. 12 following a lunar orbit insertion burn.
The spacecraft’s single main variable thruster fired at 129 kilometers distant from the moon following the issuing of a command from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center (BACC) at 03:39 Eastern.
The China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) announced the success of the crucial braking maneuver within minutes and confirmed that the spacecraft was functioning well and will begin preparations for communications tests with a relay satellite and refining its orbit.
Three trajectory correction maneuvers had been planned for the lunar transfer orbit phase, but just one, carried out Dec. 9, was required, with the first and final maneuvers deemed unnecessary and thus canceled.
Consisting of a lander and a rover, the spacecraft will attempt the first ever soft landing on the far side of the moon — which due to tidal locking never faces the Earth — in early 2019.