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Chinese Orbiter Takes One Small Step Toward Huge Moon Shot

BEIJING — China's bold plan to land a robotic spaceship on the moon and bring it back to Earth has moved another step forward with a test craft shifting into lunar orbit to conduct further tests, state media reported Sunday. The service module of a lunar orbiter that flew back to Earth in November, known as Chang'e 5 T-1, had been sitting in a position that brought in into sync with Earth's orbit, known as the second Lagrange point or Earth-Moon L2. It separated from the orbiter in November.

The craft, loaded with support systems for operating a spaceship, will collect further data to aid planning of the 2017 Chang'e 5 mission, state broadcaster China Central Television said. Chang'e 5 is being designed to make a soft landing on the moon and collect at least 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of rock and soil samples before returning to Earth. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to meet such a challenge.

China Launches Experimental Spacecraft to Orbit Moon and Return 0:30

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— The Associated Press