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Last updated: June 29, 2015


Amazing Photo of the Moon Taken By The Chang'e - 5 "Xiaofei" Lunar Orbiter in October 2014

  Posted: 15 November 2014
Photo of the Earth from behind the Moon
Photo of the Earth and Moon taken from the Xiaofei lunar orbiter in October of 2014.

Flag of the People's Republic of China

On an almost daily basis we are seeing photography that was not possible before in human history. In a photo that came out in November of 2014, the Moon, is seen closer to the observer than the Earth and Earth is observed in the background. This is not a photo-editing trick; this is a real photograph taken by the Xiaofei lunar orbiter from the Space China program in late October of 2014. Chang’e-5 T1 lunar orbiter test capsule is called Xiaofei, and it concluded an 8-day orbit around the Earth’s Moon on November 1st, 2014.

All of China's orbiters or robots that have missions to the Moon use a spacecraft called Chang'e, (then a number for the model). Chang'e means Moon Goddess that is why all of the lunar orbiter craft are given that name. Similar to the Soyuz rocket that is made in Russia, and that takes astronauts to the International Space Station, China's space program has different versions of the Chang'e lunar orbiters which help them to go to or collect data from the Earth's Moon.

Above: China
Chinese language characters signifying that this photo was released by China's space agency should not be cropped from the photograph because they tell part of the story. To share the photo, of Moon and the Earth behind it taken from a lunar orbit without giving the photograph proper credit would be misleading because many might assume the picture was taken by NASA or ESA. While NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia's space program Roscosmos have innumerable achievements in their space programs, only China has taken a photo from this angle before. It takes a moment to realize what one is seeing. The photo taken by the Xiaofei lunar orbiter seens to have been captured at the top of Xioafei's figure-8 shaped loop around the Moon on its way back to Earth.

Xiaofei test capsule of Chang'e-5 rocket returns after 8 day lunar orbit

Lunar orbiter landed in Mongolia from China's space program.
Above: Xiaofei being examined by scientists in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Xiaofei safely landed in Siziwang Banner of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region of China. Researchers and the search and recovery team retrieved the unmanned lunar orbiter from north China’s inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on Friday, November 1st, 2014. This clears the way for one of China’s next endeavors in space which is to return samples from the surface of the Moon in less than 5 years.

In his article on this topic, (previously the only article written in the English language on Xiaofei that I could find), from famous Princeton, NJ space writer Dr. Ken Kremer quotes the chief designer of China's lunar exploration: "Chang’e-5 is expected to collect a 2-kg sample from 2 meters under the Moon’s surface and bring it home,” according to Wu Wieren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program.

- Andrea Boggs


Related article: Robotic spacecraft on the Moon- Isis and Jade Rabbit - Sp12

Reference list

Kremer, K. (2 November 2014) Chinese Unmanned Lunar Orbiter Returns Safely. Paves Path for Ambitious Lunar Sample Return. Universe Today [] 

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