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Chang’e-6 Completes Lunar Rendezvous in Time for Home Trip

Chang'e-6
Chang’e-6. Credit: CNSA

Ibadan, 7 May 2024. – The Chang’e-6 moon probe’s ascender module has completed its rendezvous and subsequently docked with the orbiter and returner assembly in the lunar orbit. The lunar samples then transferred to the returner module in preparation for its journey back to the Earth. On June 2, the Chang’e-6 lander and ascender assembly successfully landed in the landing area in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the moon’s South Pole.

When the ascender module was about 50 kilometers in front of the orbiter and returner assembly and about 10 kilometers, the orbiter and returner assembly gradually approached the ascender through short-range autonomous control to complete the orbital rendezvous. Furthermore, the three sets of K-shaped claws configured on the orbiter module aligned with the three connecting rods on the connection surface of the ascender module. By tightening the claws, the two devices connected tightly, completing the rendezvous.

The Chang’e-6 probe consists of an orbiter, a returner, a lander, and an ascender, and since its launch on May 3, 2024, it has undergone the processes of Earth-Moon transfer, near-Moon braking, circumlunar flight, landing and descent. Likewise, it collected the lunar soil samples and lunar surface rocks by drilling with drilling tools and surface sampling with robotic arms.

Subsequently, the Chang’e-6 orbiter and returner combination will separate from the ascender and enter the lunar orbit waiting phase. In this phase, the spacecraft will prepare to implement lunar-to-Earth transfer orbit control at an appropriate time. After going through key steps such as lunar-to-Earth transfer and separation of the orbiter and returner, the returner will carry lunar samples and land at the Siziwang Banner Space Landing Site in Inner Mongolia. This mission marks the second time a Chinese spacecraft has achieved lunar orbit rendezvous and docking after Chang’e-5.

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