Chinese probe touches down on lunar surface, sends back photos 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Chang’E 3 lunar lander successfully touched down on the Moon earlier today, becoming another feather in China’s space exploration cap. After a short radio blackout, it sent back photos of its approach.

Chang'e 3's lunar approach

Chang’E 3’s lunar approach (CCTV13 photo)

Chang’E, named after the Chinese moon goddess 嫦娥, carries a six-wheeled rover, Jade Rabbit (yu tu 玉兔), also a figure in Chinese mythology. The rover, which resembles the NASA rovers exploring Mars, will deploy in a few hours to begin a three-month mission.

China is only the third nation to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon, following the former Soviet Union and the USA. The lunar project follows China’s successful low-earth orbit manned missions, and is a probable prelude to a manned mission to Earth’s nearest neighbor in the next few decades.

Chang'E 3's landing zone, relative to Luna and Apollo sites

Chang’E 3’s landing zone in Sinus Iridum, relative to Luna 9 and 16 and Apollo 11 sites

The probe has landed far north of landing sites by the Soviet Luna 9 and 16 probes, landing in 1966 and 1970, respectively, and the Apollo 11 landing in 1969. India and Japan have also sent missions to the Moon, but have not had soft landings. The last soft landing was by the Soviet Luna 24 probe, in 1976.

More details are available at Space.com.

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3 thoughts on “Chinese probe touches down on lunar surface, sends back photos

  1. Reply Steven Davis Dec 15,2013 7:08 pm

    I didn’t see it live myself, but the English Language coverage was streamed live here. CCTV usually has very good expert technical commentators on this channel, although obviously they don’t deviate too much from the official government spin. http://english.cntv.cn/live/

  2. Reply David Hochman Dec 15,2013 11:19 pm

    Did you notice how The Times — which regularly lets pass the copy desk unattributed “mind-reading” of domestic political players’ purported motivations — carefully attributed and qualified its report thus: “Chinese news websites displayed what they said was a photograph from the craft of the moon’s surface.” Jeez Louise.

  3. Reply William C. Weaver Dec 15,2013 11:44 pm

    I hope their mission goes perfect and that they find something new to add.

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