|Photo taken on Dec. 14, 2013 shows the lunar probe Chang'e-3 on the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China. China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 has started soft-landing on the moon as it began decelerating from 15 km above the lunar surface. (Xinhua/Li Xin)
BEIJING, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- China's lunar probe Chang'e-3, with the country's first moon rover onboard, successfully landed on the moon on Saturday night, marking the first time that China has sent a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
The lunar probe began to carry out soft-landing on the moon at about 21:00 p.m., Saturday and touched down in Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, about 12 minutes later, according to Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
During the process, the probe decelerated from 15 km above the moon, stayed hovering at 100 meters from the lunar surface to use sensors to assess the landing area to avoid obstacles and locate the final landing spot, and descended slowly onto the surface.
The success made China the third country, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to soft-land on the moon.
Compared to those other two countries, which have successfully conducted 13 soft-landings on the moon, China's soft-landing mission designed the suspension and obstacle-avoiding phases to survey the landing area much more precisely through fitted detectors, scientists said.
The probe's soft-landing, which has been termed the "black 12 minutes," is the most difficult task during the mission, said Wu Weiren, the lunar program's chief designer.