Chang’e-5 Orbiter Begins Extended Mission

Andrew Jones, for SpaceNews:

Hu Hao, a chief designer of the third (sample return) phase of the Chinese lunar exploration program, told China Central Television (Chinese) Dec. 20 that the orbiter is now on an extended mission to a Sun-Earth Lagrange point.

While unspecified, it is believed that the Chang’e-5 orbiter will enter orbit around L1, based on the reference to planned solar observations. The orbiter is equipped with optical imagers.

The team will decide on a further destination after tests and observations have been conducted, Hu said.

Chang’e-5 follows in the footsteps of Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-5 T1, which all went on to have interesting and sometimes unexpected extended missions. It feels a little like finishing a mission in Kerbal Space Program and realizing you brought along way too much fuel.