China Successfully Launches Moon Probe Chang'e-3

China Successfully Launches Moon Probe Chang'e-3

China successfully launched the Chang’e-3 lunar probe today, December 1, on time at 12:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (December 2, 1:30 am in Beijing).  The probe is China’s first that is designed to make a survivable landing on the Moon and will deploy a 6-wheeled rover named Yutu.

Chang’e is China’s mythological goddess of the Moon, who travels with her pet rabbit, Yutu, hence the name of the rover.

The European Space Agency is helping China track the probe and says that arrival in lunar orbit is expected on December 6 and landing on December 14. 

This is China’s third lunar probe.  Chang’e-1 in 2007 orbited the Moon and was commanded to impact the Moon after its mission was completed.  Chang’e-2, launched in 2010, orbited the Moon and then was redirected to encounter the asteroid Toutatis.  It continues its journey in space and is currently 60 million kilometers from Earth.

Many countries have launched probes to flyby, impact, orbit or land on the Moon: the United States, Russia/Soviet Union, Japan, and India, as well as the European Space Agency.   The Soviet Union landed two robotic rovers and three robotic sample return missions. 

The United States is the only country to land not ony robotic spacecraft on the Moon, but people.   Six two-man Apollo crews landed on the Moon between 1969 and 1972.  The last three Apollo crews (Apollo 15, 16, and 17) brought rovers — “moon buggies” — with them that they used to traverse greater distances that could be covered on foot.

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