China on Saturday successfully recovered an experimental spacecraft that flew around the moon and back in a test run for the country’s first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. The eight-day trip marked the first time in almost four decades that a spacecraft has returned to Earth after traveling around the moon. China plans to send a spacecraft to the moon in 2017 and have it return to Earth after collecting soil samples.
A Chinese moon probe came screaming back to Earth Friday (Oct. 31), just as many folks were heading out to go trick-or-treating. China’s latest moon mission, which some people are calling Chang’e 5 T1, returned to Earth at around 6 p.m. EDT Friday (6 a.m. Saturday local Chinese time), ending an eight-day unmanned flight designed to test out technology for a future lunar sample-return project. Chang’e 5 T1 launched on Oct. 23 atop a Long March 3C rocket, then completed a flyby of the moon before swinging back toward home. The mission sent a test capsule barreling into Earth’s atmosphere Friday at 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h); the capsule survived the harrowing trip intact and touched down as planned in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.