China’s Chang’e 5 completes docking mission on its way back to Earth

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The ascender of Chang’e-5 spacecraft flies above the surface of the Moon December 3rd. | Xinhua/Jin Liwang via Getty Images

China’s Chang’e-5 mission completed a tricky docking maneuver on Saturday, as it prepares to return the soil samples it collected from the Moon’s surface back to Earth.

Chang’e 5 launched on November 23rd atop a Long March 5 rocket, with four main spacecraft. The mission entered the lunar orbit on November 28th, and its lander and ascent vehicle landed on the Moon December 1st, while its service module remained in lunar orbit. The lander gathered rocks and soil, and on Saturday, docked in orbit with the service module. Those samples will now be put in a return capsule for the trip home, expected to land in Inner Mongolia later in December.

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