Backgrounder: Timeline of China's lunar program
BEIJING, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Chang'e-3 mission will carry the first Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on and explore an extraterrestrial object.
The Chang'e-1 to Chang'e-3 missions have made a "triple jump" between 2007 and 2013.
Chang'e-1: starting from nothing
Blasting off at 6:05 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2007 from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Chang'e-1 entered lunar orbit after 18 days with only one orbital trimming -- the adjustment required to achieve the desired orbit around an object.
On Nov. 12, 2008, a hologram of the whole moon made with data collected by Chang'e-1 was published. It remains the most complete lunar hologram published to date.
At 4:13 p.m. on March 1, 2009, Chang'e-1 hard-landed on the lunar surface.
Chang'e-1 opened up a new age of deep space exploration for China.
Chang'e-2: achieving several world firsts
Chang'e-2, a pilot probe for Stage II of the lunar program, was launched on Oct. 1, 2010 from Xichang, the site from which Chang'e-3 will also be launched in a few days' time.
One of Chang'e-2's tasks was to verify key technology ahead of the soft-landing. Unlike Chang'e-1, Chang'e-2 was sent directly into lunar orbit by a Long March-3C carrier rocket. The transfer from the Earth's orbit to that of the moon was attained in only 112 hours.
On arrival in a circular orbit 100 km over the lunar surface, the spacecraft transitioned to a closer elliptical orbit after finishing in-orbit tests and took a series of 1.5-meter resolution (meaning each pixel captures a 1.5-square-meter area of land) pictures of the moon's Sinus Iridium landmark, the chosen landing site of Chang'e-3.
Wu Zhijian, spokesperson for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, said Chang'e-2 achieved several firsts. It was the first time a spacecraft had flown from lunar orbit to the second Lagrange Point (L2) orbit, where the gravity of the sun and Earth balance the orbital motion of the satellite; and the first time a spacecraft encountered the Toutatis asteroid at close range, capturing images with a resolution of 10 meters.
At present, Chang'e-2 is 60 million km from Earth and has become China's first man-made asteroid in the solar system. It continues to fly into deeper space and is expected to go as far as 300 million km from Earth before contact is lost.
Chang'e-3: Soft-landing on an extraterrestrial object
So far, only the United States and the former Soviet Union have soft-landed on the moon. If successful, China will become the third country to do so.
After entering lunar orbit, Chang'e-3 will go through six stages of deceleration to descend from 15 km above to the lunar surface.
The soft-landing processes of the U.S. and former Soviet Union's unmanned spacecraft had no capacity to hover or avoid obstacles. Chang'e-3, on the other hand, can accurately survey landforms at the landing site and identify the safest spots on which to land.
In order to land quickly, the probe is equipped with high-precision, fast-response sensors to analyze its motion and surroundings. The variable thrust engine (completely designed and made by Chinese scientists) can generate up to 7,500 newtons of thrust.
Yutu (Jade Rabbit), the autonomous moon rover which will detach from the lander, will be controlled when necessary by scientists on Earth.
China pursues "zero window" launch for lunar probe
BEIJING, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- China will strive to launch its Chang'e-3 lunar probe at the optimal time within the launch window, the Xichang Satellite Launch Center said on Friday.
China is scheduled to launch the probe in early December. It will be the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. Full story
China to launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe in early Dec.
BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- China is scheduled to launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe in early December, a spokesman with State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said Tuesday.
The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything is successful, said SASTIND spokesman Wu Zhijian. Full story
China names moon rover "Yutu"
BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- China has named its first moon rover "Yutu", or jade rabbit, following an online poll seeking name proposals from the Chinese worldwide.
In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, who has been worshipped as the moon goddess in China for thousands of years and whose name is used for the country's lunar probe program. Full story
China targeting navigation system's global coverage by 2020
BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- China's homegrown navigation system BeiDou is expected to achieve full-scale global coverage by around 2020, a leading scientist told Xinhua on Sunday.
The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) will then be able to provide highly accurate and reliable positioning, navigation and timing service with the aid of a constellation of 35 satellites, said Ye Peijian, chief commander of Chang'e-3, China's lunar probe mission. Full story
Chinese probe reaches record height in space travel
BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- China's space probe Chang'e-2 has flew to an outer space about 50 million km from the Earth, marking a new height in the nation's deep space exploration, Chinese scientists said on Sunday.
The probe, which is now "in good conditions", reached the height at around 1 a.m. Sunday Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence(SASTIND) said in a statement. Full story
China's astronauts ready for longer missions
BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese astronauts are capable of conducting medium and long-term space missions and enduring the harsh physical conditions involved, a senior astronaut said on Thursday.
"From Shenzhou V to Shenzhou X, we have been laying the foundation for future medium and long-term missions," said Nie Haisheng, one of three astronauts who took part in last month's 15-day space mission, the longest yet for China. Full story