As Rover Lands, China Joins Moon Club


China on Saturday became the third country to steer a spacecraft onto the moon after its unmanned Chang’e-3 probe settled onto the Bay of Rainbows, state-run television reported.

The United States and the Soviet Union are the other countries to have accomplished so-called soft landings on the moon — in which a craft can work after landing — and 37 years have passed since the last such mission.

The successful arrival of the Chang’e-3 after a 13-day journey from Earth was reported on Chinese state television. At the time of the last soft landing, by the Soviet Union in 1976, Mao Zedong lay a month from death and China was in the twilight of his chaotic Cultural Revolution. Now China, much richer and stronger, aspires to become a globally respected power, and the government sees a major presence in space as a key to acquiring technological prowess, military strength and sheer status.

Chinese media celebrated the landing as a demonstration of the country’s growing scientific stature. Television reports showed engineers at the mission control center in Beijing crying, embracing and taking pictures of one another on their cellphones.

“The dream of the Chinese people across thousands of years of landing on the moon has finally been realized with Chang’e,” said the China News Service, a state-run news agency. “By successfully joining the international deep-space exploration club, we finally have the right to share the resources on the moon with developed countries.”

Written By: Chris Buckley
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  1. It is interesting that in addition to India and China, Iran is also making claims about space capabilities!

    Iran says it has successfully sent a monkey into space. –

    The primate travelled in a Pishgam rocket, which reached an altitude of some 120km (75 miles) for a sub-orbital flight before “returning its shipment intact”, the defence ministry said.

    Iranian state TV showed images of the monkey, which was strapped into a harness, being taken to the rocket.

    Western nations have expressed concern that Iran’s space programme is being used to develop long-range missiles.

    Such missiles could potentially be used to carry nuclear warheads.

    Iran denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

    This is a reflection of the earlier space race where USA and USSR had military rocket and satellite programmes intermixed with space activities.

  2. Well done to China for this great achievement.
    Does anyone know if the rover has a video camera that can make video recordings of its mission, earth rise, earth set, earth eclipses, etc in at least 25 fps. This simple capability will really capture the general publics attention. The beauty of our own planet from the moon will be breathtaking and awe inspiring for millions of ordinary people who may otherwise have no interest in science and what it can achieve.
    I understand that the lander has a telescope on it. I wonder what our closest neighbours mars and Venus look like from the moon, and look forward to seeing the hd images, and hopefully, hd videos as they come in.

    • In reply to #12 by brown dwarf: +14

      Does anyone know if the rover has a video camera that can make video recordings of its mission, earth rise,

      The NASA Earth-rise photos were taken from orbiting spacecraft.

  3. The mission continues to progress!

    China’s Jade Rabbit rover rolls onto Moon –

    China’s robotic Jade Rabbit lunar rover has driven off its landing module and on to the Moon’s surface.

    The robotic vehicle rolled down a ramp lowered by the lander and on to the volcanic plain known as Sinus Iridum.

    The six-wheeled rover carries a sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

    Earlier on Saturday, the landing module containing the rover fired its thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976.

    The touchdown in the Moon’s northern hemisphere marks the latest step in China’s ambitious space programme.

    The lander will operate there for a year, while the rover is expected to work for some three months.

    Reports suggest the lander and rover will photograph each other at some point on Sunday.

    According to Chinese space scientists, the mission is designed to test new technologies, gather scientific data and build intellectual expertise. It will also scout valuable mineral resources that could one day be mined.

    There are various interesting diagrams and photographs on the links.

    Chang’e-3 mission instruments

    On the lander:

    • Optical ultraviolet telescope for astronomy
    • Ultraviolet camera to monitor space weather
    • Descent camera to monitor the landing

    On the rover:

    • Two panoramic cameras
    • Engineering and navigation cameras
    • Arm-mounted alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to analyse chemical elements in rocks and soil
    • Infrared spectrometer to study minerals
    • Ground-penetrating radar to map the structure of lunar soil and crust down to several hundred feet
  4. Just correcting myself. There will be no earth rise and earth set as seen from the surface of the moon because the moon is tidally locked to the earth. So I would assume that the earth will always be rotating in the same position in the moons sky. Is this correct or not?
    And is one day on the moon fourteen 24hour earth days, and one lunar night the same fourteen rotations of the earth?
    How long is a sunrise and sunset on the moon?

  5. The mission rolls on with the instruments on the rover now activated.

    Five of the eight pieces of scientific equipment Chang’e-3 had begun their observations, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

    The telescopes and cameras are producing clear images, Zou Yongliao, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference.

    Some of the youngest lava flows on the Moon are within reach of China’s Jade Rabbit rover, says a leading US lunar scientist. –

    Chang’e 3 landed at the extreme northern end of a sequence of lava flows, which are estimated – by counting the number of impact craters on them – to be very young in lunar terms.

    Dr Spudis said two major terrain types dominated lunar geology: the bright rugged highlands dating from the Moon’s formation 4.5 billion years ago, and the younger “maria”, dark volcanic plains made up of iron-rich lava flows.

    The lavas began to erupt around 3.9 billion years ago, but it is unclear when this volcanic activity ended. The Mare Imbrium lavas appear to be between one and 2.5 billion years old, making them much younger than any of the rock samples returned from the Moon thus far.

    Dr Spudis said the Imbrium lavas were “not only remarkable for their physical properties but are also compositionally interesting”.

    “Because the rover will examine several different individual areas during its traverse, we will obtain new “ground truth” data to better understand the meaning of data obtained remotely from orbit,” he explained.

    Data gathered from orbit show the lavas to be high in the metal titanium. Volcanic flows to the north of the landing site seem have a lower titanium content and appear to underlie the ones that Chang’e-3 sits on.

    But some of these underlying rocks may have been excavated by impacts, allowing Jade Rabbit to look for them among the debris around craters.

    “With data from the rover, we might be able to reconstruct the volcanic stratigraphy of this region of the Moon,” said Dr Spudis

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