China has successfully launched its Chang’e-3 lunar probe to the moon, from the Xichang satellite Launch Center in southwestern China. It is the first time a Chinese spacecraft will land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, and first time a rover will land on the moon in four decades. Chang’e 3 is aiming to follow the successes of the Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 missions in 2007 and 2010.
It’s regarded as the most ambitious lunar mission by China. The long-march 3B rocket carried the Chang’-3 lunar probe and a rover into orbit before they unfolded their solar panels.
Many technologies are being used to ensure the probe makes a safe landing in low-gravity conditions. The lunar program will also see breakthroughs in remote control between the moon and the Earth, like the use of a high frequency X-band observation system.
Wu Fenglei, Deputy Director of System Design, Aerospace Control & Command Center, said, “If we successfully use the X-band, in the future, we can use this tracking network to perform a mission to Mars.”
Chang’e 3 is part of the second phase of China’s three-step robotic lunar exploration program of orbiting and landing probes, followed by a mission to collect samples of the moon and return them to Earth.