The orbiter and returner combination of China’s Chang’e-5 probe successfully separated from the spacecraft’s ascender at 12:35 p.m. Sunday (Beijing Time), according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
The orbiter-returner combination will continue to orbit the moon, and wait for the right time to return to Earth with lunar samples.
Earlier on Sunday, the probe’s ascender successfully rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit.
This is the first time a Chinese spacecraft has carried out rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit.
The samples collected on the moon have been transferred from the ascender to the returner, the CNSA said.
Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history. It is also the world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.
The Chang’e-5 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on Nov. 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon on Dec. 1.
The returner of the probe is expected to land at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in mid-December.