China's Chang'e 5 lander approaches the moon

A Chinese probe on an unmanned moon mission to retrieve a lunar sample is approaching the moon and preparing for a soft landing, Chinese state broadcaster CGTN reported. The exact landing time is however unclear: some US experts had previously assumed a landing on early Monday morning but according to other estimates, the landing should take place on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Chang'e 5 spacecraft separated from the orbiter and re-entry module and has entered the moon's orbit, according to the report citing the China National Space Administration. The orbiter and re-entry module will continue to fly around the moon and adjust to a designated orbit, in preparation for docking with the ascender, CGTN reported.

After it lands on the moon, the mission hopes to also bring moon rocks back to Earth, making China only the third country to do so after the United States and the Soviet Union.

This is China's most ambitious moon mission to date and follows the Chang'e 4 mission last year, which achieved the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon.

The Chang'e 5 spacecraft, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, weighs 8,200 kilograms and has four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a re-entry module.

The rocket carrying the Chang'e 5 left from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern Hainan province early on 24 November.

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