Today, the People’s Republic of China became the third nation in human history to successfully land on the moon, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The Chang’e-3 spacecraft, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, PRC on 01 December, just two weeks ago, will soon release the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit“) rover, a six wheeled scientific vehicle that contains an imaging sensor array, a telescope, an ultraviolet sensor and arms that can dig into the lunar soil up to 90 feet. With a planned mission of three months, hopes are that the solar powered vehicle will live well beyond it’s life expectancy and mission time, much like other rovers have done.
Further, the next phase of the CNSA’s lunar program, Chang’e-5 is set to not only soft-land also, but has a stated objective to return to Earth with lunar soil samples, with a projected launch date of 2020.
Coming a long way since it first put a Chinese cosmonaut into space for the first time just ten years ago, the Chinese National Space Administration has clearly made leaps and bounds in putting the flag of it’s nation on another celestial body in a soft landing.
The last soft landing on the moon was by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24, which occurred in August 1976. This mission was the third Soviet lunar expedition to successfully return lunar soil samples to Earth. Four years before, Apollo 17 was the last manned exploration of the Moon, made up of Professor (and future United States Senator) Harrison Schmitt, and Navy Captain Eugene Cernan, known as “the Last Man on the Moon,” when his mission left the lunar surface exactly 41 years ago today, funny enough, when the Lunar Module ascended to meet the CSM at 10:54PM UTC.
“Sometimes, I catch myself looking up to the Moon and I wonder, when are we going back, and when will that be?”
— Captain James Lovell, USN (Retired)
Commander, Apollo 13
- Chinese Probe Successfully Lands On The Moon (forbes.com)
- Chinese Land Rover on Moon (parabolicarc.com)
- China’s first lunar rover landed on the moon Saturday, less than two weeks after it blasted off from Earth. (tonisage.wordpress.com)
- China’s first lunar rover lands on moon – Business Standard (business-standard.com)
- China’s first lunar rover lands on moon (sbs.com.au)
- China Lands Rover on Moon (voanews.com)
- China successfully lands spacecraft on Moon (keepongeekin.wordpress.com)
- China Lands Chang’e-3 On The Moon (spaceref.com)
- Chinese lunar probe makes successful landing (cbsnews.com)
- China Lands On The Moon: Historic Robotic Lunar Landing Includes 1st Chinese Rover (space.com)