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Emily LakdawallaDecember 11, 2013

Quick Chang'e 3 and Mars Orbiter Mission updates

Two quick status updates on planetary missions:

Chang'e 3 is one step closer to the Moon. When it entered lunar orbit a few days ago, it entered a 100-kilometer circular orbit. At 13:20 UTC yesterday it fired its rocket while on the far side of the Moon to lower the orbit periapsis to 15 kilometers. Over the coming few days, its orbit will walk westward with respect to the lunar surface, placing the spacecraft in position for its descent to the surface at 15:22 UT (7:22 PT) on December 14.

Meanwhile, India's Mars Orbiter Mission has just performed a trajectory correction maneuver that trims its course toward Mars. It required a 44-second firing of its maneuvering thrusters, not its main engine, and the maneuver reportedly went well. It has much farther to fly than Chang'e 3 does, of course -- arrival is still next year, September of 2014. I don't always write about trajectory correction maneuvers for missions -- they're pretty routine on deep space missions these days -- but commanding a spacecraft that's already far from Earth is new territory for India, so everything that Mars Orbiter Mission accomplishes from here on out is a newsworthy first for them.

Read more: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status, Chang'E program, Chang'e 3

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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