Today will hopefully mark a great day for lunar science and space exploration!! China’s Chang’e 3 mission was scheduled to launch at 1.30am Monday morning (17.30 Sunday, British time). If the mission is successful it will be the first time in 37 years a soft landing has been performed on the Moon since the Luna 24 mission (Former USSR) in August 1976. The lunar lander and rover are carried up into orbit of the Moon in the nose of a 185-foot-tall Long March 3B rocket, before they are released and eventually descend to the lunar surface in a few days.
Chang’e 3, launched from Xichang launch base, follows the successful Chang’e 1 and 2 orbitor missions to the Moon (launched in 2007 and 2010 respectively). The Sea of Rainbows was determined the destination for Chang’e 3 from high resolution images and data collected during these two missions.
In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is the name of the Chinese goddess of the Moon, accompanied on her journey by her pet Yutu or translated to English ‘Jade Rabbit’. Jade Rabbit *the lunar rover) is well equipped with four cameras and facilities to dig up material from the lunar surface. The six wheeled rover will explore the Moon for up to 3 months looking at the geology, investigating the resources and taking high resolution imagery.
The journey to the Moon is expected to take 5 days and will be monitored and tracked closely by the European Space Agency, providing support to the mission. Signals will start being received instantly after lift-off to ESA’s station in Kourou, French Guiana and ESA will upload commands on behalf of the Chinese control centre. If all goes to plan, the lunar lander with Jade Rabbit inside will land on the Moon on 14th December, an amazing early Christmas present for all of us Moon exploration kids. Good Luck Chang’e 3 and Jade Rabbit, we wish you well
Stay tuned for more information on the Chang’e 3 mission.