Returning lunar orbiter makes skip re-entry

Updated: 2014-11-01 06:53


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BEIJING -- The return module of China's test lunar orbiter made a skip re-entry before plunging into the terrestrial atmosphere for a much anticipated home coming.

If all goes well, it will finally touch down in Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia later.

Before its re-entry into Earth, the spacecraft was moving at a velocity of 11.2 kilometers per second. This speed can generate temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius.

To help the craft slow down, scientists have employed a Soviet-designed method by letting the craft "bounce" off the edge of the Earth's atmosphere, before re-entering again.

The re-entry angle has to be guided so precisely that a 0.2 degrees deviation would render the mission a failure. Experts have previous compared the process to "stone skipping," which helps cut the "braking distance" for the orbiter.