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Lunar Graveyard

China Crashed Spacecraft Into the Moon so It Wouldn’t Become Space Junk

byDan Robitzski
12. 9. 20
DPA

That's one way to do it.

Left Behind

In a bid to avoid cluttering space with even more pieces of orbital debris, the Chinese space agency crashed part of its Chang’e-5 spacecraft into the Moon.

The Chang’e-5 mission is already on its way back to Earth after scooping up samples of lunar rock and soil, but the South China Morning Post reports that some components were instructed to crash back into the Moon — because a lunar resting place is safer for future missions than leaving junk in orbit.

Relay Race

The Chang’e-5 ascent vehicle, which delivered the lunar samples from the Moon to the orbiter waiting to take them home, won’t get a return journey of its own. Instead, SpaceNews reports that it was instructed to hurtle back toward the Moon on Monday while the orbiter headed back to Earth.

“This is an important pledge made by China as a responsible major country, towards the peaceful exploration and utilization of space by humans,” the China National Space Administration told SCMP.

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Lunar Junkyard

Experts have been searching for ways to clear garbage out of orbit for years, and earlier this year there were several high-profile near-misses in orbit.

Closer to Earth, satellites and space stations can be retired by bringing them back toward Earth, where they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere or safely splash into the ocean. But all the way out near the Moon, that’s less practical. Instead, China has decided that starting a graveyard on the Moon itself is the safer option.

READ MORE: China dodges speeding space junk bullet after Chang’e 5 moon mission [South China Morning Post]

More on Chang’e-5: Chinese Lander Sends Back Color Pictures of the Moon

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