To the Moon: Chinese Lunar Exploration Program

2020-November-25 17:10 By:

China's current lunar program includes three phases: orbiting, landing on the moon, and bringing back samples. China is also drawing up the plan for the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program. Each mission serves as a technology demonstrator in preparation for future missions.

Oct. 24, 2007, Chang'e-1 was successfully launched to carry out various exploration missions about the Moon.It impacted the Moon after 16 months of in-orbit detection.Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probing satellite, provided observations in a low lunar orbit and obtained a 3-D map of the lunar surface. Chang'e-1 represents the first phase in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.​

Oct. 1, 2010, Chang'e-2 was successfully launched. It obtained the world's first overall moon image with 7m resolution, accomplished an operational mission at the Sun-Earth Lagrangian Point L2, and completed a close flyby of Asteroid Toutatis.

Dec. 2, 2013, Chang'e-3 was successfully launched. Chang'e-3 and China's lunar rover Yutu captured each other in photos and sent them back to Earth. Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.

Oct. 24, 2014, the Chang'e 5 test vehicle was successfully sent to loop around the Moon and head back to Earth, entering the third phase of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Nov. 1, the vehicle conducted a skip re-entry to dissipate energy by "skipping" out of the atmosphere after initial contact and slowing down in the exosphere before final atmospheric entry, and reached Earth, laying a solid technical base for the future Chang'e 5 mission.

May 31, 2018, the launch of the relay satellite Queqiao, enabled the communication between the Earth and Chang'e 4 lander on the lunar farside, having made Queqiao the only bridge between the Earth and the mysterious lunar farside.

Dec. 8, 2018, Chang'e-4 lunar probe blasted off from the Earth. The Chang'e-4 probe touched down as planned in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon on Jan. 3, 2019, which was the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

Nov. 24, 2020, Chang'e-5 was successfully launched. Retrieving samples from an extraterrestrial body is a key step of China's current three-step lunar exploration program, including "orbiting and landing on the Moon, and bringing back samples".

Editor: WXY
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