CHINA China's lunar exploration program

CHINA

China's lunar exploration program

China Plus/Xinhua

04:23, July 20, 2018

Friday is Moon Day, which commemorates the first human landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969. To mark the occasion, let's take a look at China's lunar exploration program.

The Chang'e program

China's lunar exploration program started in 2004. It is named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang'e.

People look at the orbits of China's Chang'e satellites at a display in Yantai, Shandong Province, on April 22, 2018. [File photo: VCG]

People look at the orbits of China's Chang'e satellites at a display in Yantai, Shandong Province, on April 22, 2018. [File photo: VCG]

The three-stage program includes orbiting and then landing on the Moon, and bringing samples of the lunar surface back to Earth.

Chang'e-1

A rendering of China's lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 [File photo: Xinhua]

A rendering of China's lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 [File photo: Xinhua]

China's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, was launched on October 24, 2007. China was the world's fifth country to develop and launch its own lunar probe.

China's first moon orbiter, Chang'e-1, lifts off from the launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 24, 2007. [File photo: VCG]

China's first moon orbiter, Chang'e-1, lifts off from the launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 24, 2007. [File photo: VCG]

Orbiting 200 kilometers above the Moon, it mapped 3D images of the lunar surface, analyzed the distribution of its elements, measured the depth of the lunar soil, and explored the environment between the Earth and the Moon.

This photo, released on November 26, 2007, shows China's first picture of the Moon, which was captured by the Chang'e-1 lunar orbiter. [File photo: China National Space Administration]

This photo, released on November 26, 2007, shows China's first picture of the Moon, which was captured by the Chang'e-1 lunar orbiter. [File photo: China National Space Administration]

This photo, released on December 11, 2007, shows the dark side of the moon, as seen by Chang'e-1. [File photo: China National Space Administration]

This photo, released on December 11, 2007, shows the dark side of the moon, as seen by Chang'e-1. [File photo: China National Space Administration]

Chang'e-1 helped Chinese scientists develop the country's first complete map of the Moon's surface.

China's first complete map of the Moon's surface [File photo: Xinhua]

China's first complete map of the Moon's surface [File photo: Xinhua]

After orbiting the Moon for about 16 months, the probe made a controlled crash on the lunar surface in March 2009.

Chang'e-1 hits the Moon's surface at 4:13 p.m. Beijing Time (0813 GMT) on March 1, 2009. [File photo: people.com.cn]

Chang'e-1 hits the Moon's surface at 4:13 p.m. Beijing Time (0813 GMT) on March 1, 2009. [File photo: people.com.cn]

Chang'e-2

A rendering of China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter [File photo: China National Space Administration]

A rendering of China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The Chang'e-2 lunar probe blasted off on October 1, 2010.

The Chang'e-2 lunar probe is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 1, 2010. [File photo: VCG]

The Chang'e-2 lunar probe is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 1, 2010. [File photo: VCG]

The flight path of Chang'e-2 from the Earth to the Moon. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

The flight path of Chang'e-2 from the Earth to the Moon. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A selfie taken by Chang'e-2 with the Earth [File photo: Official Weibo account of the Yutu moon rover of Chang'e-3]

A selfie taken by Chang'e-2 with the Earth [File photo: Official Weibo account of the Yutu moon rover of Chang'e-3]

Chang'e-2 gained a full lunar map with a spatial resolution of seven meters, showing more detail of the lunar surface.

The complete high-resolution map of the Moon taken by Chang'e 2, released on February 6, 2012. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

The complete high-resolution map of the Moon taken by Chang'e 2, released on February 6, 2012. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

The full cylindrical projection map of the moon taken by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

The full cylindrical projection map of the moon taken by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

Orthographic projection diagrams of the moon taken by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

Orthographic projection diagrams of the moon taken by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

The probe also took pictures of the Sinus Iridum, also known as the Bay of Rainbows, of the proposed landing site of Chang'e-3.

After completing its main tasks, Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system, to conduct scientific experiments where the gravity from the Sun and Earth balances the orbital motion of a satellite.

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A diagram shows how Chang'e-2 flew to the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

In December 2012, the probe successfully flew by and captured images of the Toutatis asteroid.

The probe has now become a man-made asteroid in the solar system.

A photo of the Toutatis asteroid captured by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

A photo of the Toutatis asteroid captured by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

Photos of the Toutatis asteroid captured by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

Photos of the Toutatis asteroid captured by Chang'e-2 [File photo: State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence]

Chang'e-3

This chart shows the process of the soft-landing on the Moon of China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 on December 14, 2013. [File photo: Xinhua]

This chart shows the process of the soft-landing on the Moon of China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 on December 14, 2013. [File photo: Xinhua]

Chang'e-3 was launched on December 2, 2013. It included a lander and a moon rover called Yutu (Jade Rabbit).

China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on December 2, 2013. [File photo: VCG]

China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 is launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on December 2, 2013. [File photo: VCG]

It touched down softly at Sinus Iridum 12 days later, making China the third country, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, to achieve a soft landing on the moon.

The lander and the rover took photos of each other as the rover circled the lander.

The photo of the Yutu moon rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on December 15, 2013 [File photo: VCG]

The photo of the Yutu moon rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on December 15, 2013 [File photo: VCG]

The photo of the Chang'e-3 moon lander taken by the camera on the Yutu moon rover on December 15, 2013 [File photo: VCG]

The photo of the Chang'e-3 moon lander taken by the camera on the Yutu moon rover on December 15, 2013 [File photo: VCG]

The probe developed a geological profile of the Moon, and recorded the geological structure 330 meters beneath the lunar surface. In doing so, it discovered a new kind of lunar rock.

The world's first geological profile of the Moon plot according to photos taken by the camera on the Yutu moon rover [File photo: CCTV]

The world's first geological profile of the Moon plot according to photos taken by the camera on the Yutu moon rover [File photo: CCTV]

An optical telescope installed on the lander conducted observations in the ultraviolet band of celestial bodies above the North Pole of the Moon.

Photo taken by the landform camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 25, 2013 shows the image of the earth during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

Photo taken by the landform camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 25, 2013 shows the image of the earth during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

This panoramic photo taken from December 17 to 18, 2013 shows the moonscape around the Yutu moon rover during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

This panoramic photo taken from December 17 to 18, 2013 shows the moonscape around the Yutu moon rover during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

Photo provided by National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences shows a high-resolution image of the lunar surface. The image was captured by the Chang'e 3 and Yutu rover. [File photo: Xinhua]

Photo provided by National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences shows a high-resolution image of the lunar surface. The image was captured by the Chang'e 3 and Yutu rover. [File photo: Xinhua]

Another instrument, an ultraviolet camera, obtained images of the Earth's plasma layer, which could help to better forecast space weather and ensure the safety of communications on Earth, as well as between Earth and spacecraft.

Photo taken by the extreme ultraviolet camera on December 16, 2013 shows the observation of the Earth's plasmasphere during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

Photo taken by the extreme ultraviolet camera on December 16, 2013 shows the observation of the Earth's plasmasphere during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle. [File photo: Xinhua]

Test craft for Chang'e-5

China launched an experimental spacecraft on October 24, 2014 to test technologies to be used in the Chang'e-5, which is expected to bring samples of the Moon back to Earth.

The Chang'e-5 T1 spacecraft lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 24, 2014. [File photo: VCG]

The Chang'e-5 T1 spacecraft lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on October 24, 2014. [File photo: VCG]

The spacecraft, comprised of a re-entry capsule and a service module, flew half an orbit around the Moon. After the re-entry and service capsules separated, the re-entry capsule approached the Earth's atmosphere at about 11.2 kilometers per second.

The photo of the Earth taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The photo of the Earth taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The photo of part of the Moon taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The photo of part of the Moon taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The photo of Earth and the Moon together taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module on November 9, 2014 [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The photo of Earth and the Moon together taken by the Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module on November 9, 2014 [File photo: China National Space Administration]

The return capsule touched down at the designated landing area in Siziwang Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on November 1, 2014.

The return capsule of the Chang'e-5 T1 spacecraft touches down at the designated landing area in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on November 1, 2014. [File photo: Xinhua]

The return capsule of the Chang'e-5 T1 spacecraft touches down at the designated landing area in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on November 1, 2014. [File photo: Xinhua]

The service module flew back to orbit the Moon for further tests, and reached the L2 point of the Earth-Moon system to conduct experiments.

Chang'e-4

China launched a relay satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) on May 21, 2018 to set up a communication link between the Earth and the Moon's far side.

A Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched at 5:28 a.m. Beijing Time from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on May 21, 2018.  [File photo: cnsa.gov.cn]

A Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched at 5:28 a.m. Beijing Time from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on May 21, 2018.  [File photo: cnsa.gov.cn]

The satellite entered the Halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system on June 14.

A diagram shows China's first mission to the far side of the moon. [File photo: chinadaily.com.cn]

A diagram shows China's first mission to the far side of the moon. [File photo: chinadaily.com.cn]

It will play a vital role in China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe, which is expected to be the first-ever soft-landing probe on the Moon's far side later this year.

An illustration of Chang'e-4 working on the Moon [Photo: stdaily.com]

An illustration of Chang'e-4 working on the Moon [Photo: stdaily.com]

Chang'e-5

China plans to launch the Chang'e-5 lunar probe in 2019, which is expected to bring lunar samples back to the Earth.

The model of Chang'e-5 lunar probe is exhibited at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, on November 3, 2016. [File photo: Xinhua]

The model of Chang'e-5 lunar probe is exhibited at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, on November 3, 2016. [File photo: Xinhua]

The Chang'e-5 lunar probe will be very complex, containing four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander.

After fulfilling the three steps of its lunar probe program - orbiting, landing and returning - China will conduct further exploration of the Moon, including landing and probing the polar regions of the Moon.

A map of the moon [File photo: China National Space Administration]

A map of the moon [File photo: China National Space Administration]

Related Stories

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue