Skip to main content

China launches first moon mission

From Sophie Brown, CNN
updated 9:11 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: China launched an unmanned lunar probe Monday
  • Chang'e-3 will release a solar-powered rover on the moon's surface
  • The probe may interfere with a NASA lunar dust study, U.S. scientist says

(CNN) -- China launched its first lunar probe early Monday, which, if all goes well, will make it only the third nation -- after the United States and the Soviet Union -- to soft-land on the moon.

The launch of the unmanned probe took place at 1:30 a.m. Monday (12:30 p.m. ET Sunday), state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chang'e-3 blasted off from a Long March 3B rocket in Sichuan province located in southwest China and is expected to land on the moon's surface in mid-December.

The new space effort comes just over a decade after the country first sent an astronaut into space.

Unlike the soft-landing of the U.S. and the Soviet Union's unmanned spacecraft, Chang'e-3 will be able to survey the landscape first and determine the safest spot.

Researchers say an impact crater named Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, is its likely destination. In 2010, China's previous lunar mission captured images of the crater while scouting potential landing sites for the 2013 probe.

China sets course for lunar landing this year

Teaching class from a space lab
China unveils new space mission

On landing, the spacecraft will release Jade Rabbit (called Yutu in Chinese) -- a six-wheeled lunar rover equipped with four cameras and two mechanical legs that can dig up soil samples, a designer for the rover told Xinhua last month. A public poll determined the the solar-powered robot's name, which comes from the white pet rabbit of the Chinese moon godess Chang'e. The slow-moving rover will patrol the moon's surface for at least three months, according to Xinhua.

Timeline: China's race into space

In the United States, scientists are concerned the Chinese mission could interfere with a NASA study of the moon's dust environment. Chang'e-3's descent is likely to create a noticeable plume on the moon's surface that could skew the results of research already being carried out by NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), Jeff Plescia, chair of NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group told Space.com, a space news site.

Chopsticks and soup spoons the inspiration behind China's space tools

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Despite the Chinese leadership's austerity measures the country's biggest car show opened to much buzz.
updated 5:30 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief, Jaime FlorCruz, remembers when a phone call from a student alerted him to the Tiananmen Square protest
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
CNN's Brian Stelter talks with CCTV correspondent Jim Spellman on how the Chinese media has covered MH370's mystery.
China's economy has bested many others in just the past 10 years.
updated 2:02 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
In China, users of the "Life Black Box" website can set up final farewells to their friends in case they suddenly die.
updated 1:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
A recent university study claims Chinese micro-blogging activity might not be as vibrant as expected.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chinese art has been fetching some serious cash -- here's how we can elbow into the market
updated 10:51 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
A Shanghainese collector paid $36 million for this tiny cup decorated with chickens.
updated 2:57 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Ben Richardson on corruption in China: a veil of secrecy shrouds the links between power and wealth.
China's economy is slowing and growth in 2014 could fall short of the government's official target, according to a CNNMoney survey of economists.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is the first foreigner to visit the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
updated 9:26 PM EDT, Sun April 6, 2014
If the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 caused a rift in China-Malaysia relations, the two countries appear to have put it behind them.
updated 1:17 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Martin Jacques argues that in the twenty-first century, China will challenge our perception of what it is to be modern.
A new survey of university students in China shows where they most want to work. What are the dream employers for Chinese students?
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
What are President Xi Jinping's greatest goals as he visits the EU headquarters in Brussels?
Last year, thousands of Chinese tourists flocked to Yellowstone National Park to view the mountains, the buffalo and Old Faithful.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
A senior Bloomberg News journalist quit his role earlier this month, saying the "mishandling" by his bosses of a story critical of China was behind his departure.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
"The aim is to let [families of MH370 passengers] express anger while keeping them restrained," says a Chinese official.
updated 9:58 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama's secret weapon in China? Michelle.
ADVERTISEMENT