by Xinhua writer Xiong Ping
BEIJING, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The moon Saturday saw a rare new visitor -- lunar probe Chang'e-3 from China, the third country on earth which achieved a soft landing on it after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The success also made China the first country that conducted a soft landing on Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a lunar area that remains unstudied and silent for hundreds of millions of years, stamping new foot prints in the history of mankind's lunar exploration.
Chang'e-3's graceful landing, one of the three key stages of China's lunar program featuring "cycle, land and return," made a historic breakthrough, leaving the achievements of her previous two sisters Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 far behind.
A small rove by Chang'e-3 on the moon demonstrated a big stride of China.
According to statistics, 129 lunar explorations were seen before Chang'e-3 landed, but only half of them succeeded, among which only the United States and the former Soviet Union completed 13 unmanned soft landings successfully.
The low success rate tells the difficulties of lunar exploration and landing.
The tougher thing is that China, as a newcomer in the world's deep space exploration club, has been adhering to self-innovation. Compared with her two previous sisters Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2, 80 percent of Chang'e-3's components and technologies are the latest, said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the lunar probe.
"Soft landing" marks "hard success." In an unexplored area on the moon for scientific exploration, Chang'e-3 is not chasing fame in the "lunar landing club." She will release moon rover "Yutu" for mobile exploration, to advance human knowledge about the moon.
There is self-innovation. There is international cooperation.
"ESA (European Space Agency) and China have recently signed a 'mutual cross support agreement' which implies that ESA can provide support to a Chinese mission through our deep space network (Estrack)," said Karl Bergquist, administrator of ESA's International Relations Department.
"But the contrary could also be possible, i.e. that ESA would request to China to use the Chinese deep space antennas for an ESA mission. This has not yet happened, but I am sure it will happen in the next few years," Bergquist told Xinhua.
"This is a sign of the close relations that exists between ESA and the Chinese space authorities," said Bergquist.
Space exploration is the cause of mankind, not just "the patent" of a certain country. China will share the achievements of its lunar exploration with the whole world and use them to benefit humanity.
It is learned that all data obtained by Chang'e-3 will be open to the whole world. China's lunar exploration provides an opportunity for countries dedicated to peaceful use of outer space to advance space technology together.
From Chang'e-1 to Chang'e-3, China is constantly challenging a new high. The dream for lunar exploration once again lights up the China Dream.
Open and self-confident, China, in its space exploration drive, also sincerely welcomes international cooperation for common progress.
Backgrounder: China's "triple jump" progress in lunar probes
Backgrounder: Timeline of China's lunar program
Special Report: China's lunar explorations
Graphics: Launch procedure of Chang'e-3 lunar probe
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