Tags: china | moon | mission

China Moon Mission: Probe Landing in December Would Be Nation's First

Image: China Moon Mission: Probe Landing in December Would Be Nation's First

By Clyde Hughes   |   Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 12:18 PM

China announced Tuesday that it's planning a mission to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon in early December.

It would be the first time China has landed a spacecraft on the moon if its space agency successfully lands the probe, state-run Xinhua News Agency stated.

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The Chang'e-3 spacecraft is comprised of a lander and a moon rover called "Yutu," or Jade Rabbit in Chinese. The lunar probe is scheduled to land on the moon in mid-December, Wu Zhijian, spokesman with State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) told Xinhua.

Yutu will land in Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, and operate on the moon's surface for three months. Administrators told Xinhua that Yutu can move at a speed of 200 meters per hour.

The Chang'e-3 is part of China's lunar mission program, which consists of orbiting, landing on the moon, and then returning a ship aback to earth. Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions ran in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

David Kring, senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, told Space.com that landing in the Bay of Rainbows has several advantages.

Kring said that China may be trying to return lunar samples back to China and a rocket would not need as much power to get off the moon's surface in the Bay of Rainbows region.

The area is an impact crater, measuring roughly 146 miles across, that was flooded at one time by basaltic lavas, Kring told Space.com. He said in 1970, the then-Soviet Union's Luna 17 spacecraft landed nearby with the Lunokhod 1 moon rover.

The Associated Press said in August that China has been examining manned space flights, sending two missions to temporarily crew the Tiangong 1 experimental space station, which was put into space in 2011. The station will be replaced by a permanent station, Tiangong 2, in seven years.

The Chinese became the third country behind the United States and Russia to put an astronaut into space independently in 2003. Its space program, which is backed by the Chinese military, has become a source of enormous national pride for the country.

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