Chang’e 1 Bites the (Moon) Dust

by Nancy Atkinson on March 1, 2009

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An artist image shows China's lunar orbiter Chang'e I impacted the moon.  Credit: people.com.cn

An artist image shows China's lunar orbiter Chang'e I impacted the moon. Credit: people.com.cn


Chang’e-1, China’s first lunar probe successfully concluded its mission early March 1 by impacting the surface of the Moon at 8:13 GMT. The satellite conducted a 16-month mission, mapping and creating three-dimensional images of the lunar surface. The planned impact was designed to help China gather experience for landing a subsequent lunar probe. China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said the spacecraft hit the lunar surface at 1.50 degrees south latitude and 52.36 degrees east longitude.

Several performance tests were carried out while Chang’e-1 was in orbit to give engineers experience in orbit adjustment, and to test the spacecraft’s capability. It’s also difficult for satellites to remain in lunar orbit for long periods of time because of the usual concentrations of mass or “mascons” within the Moon, which also distort satellite orbits, causing spacecraft to ultimately impact the surface.

“The second phase of the space program aims at soft landing, and the preparation is currently in progress”, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the country’s lunar probe program.

A 3D image of lunar terrain. Credit: China's Chang'e-1 lunar orbiter.

A 3D image of lunar terrain. Credit: China's Chang'e-1 lunar orbiter.


Chang’e 1 is the first phase of China’s three-stage moon mission. In 2012, China hopes to land a rover vehicle on the Moon, and by around 2017 they hope to have a sample return mission from the Moon.

Chang’e-1 was launched on Oct. 24, 2007.

Congratulations to China and the Chang’e 1 team for a successful mission.

Source: Xinhua.net

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Max March 1, 2009 at 5:04 PM

It certainly seems congratulations are in order. These missions are difficult and it appears they managed to make this one run without a hitch.

Scott March 1, 2009 at 9:38 PM

Go China Go. I watched the moon landings in the late 1960;s and early 1970;s…..since then…..well…things have not progressed well.
It is your time now China…..good luck.

dayanks101 March 2, 2009 at 6:11 AM

I wonder if that picture is to scale? Ha

Olaf March 2, 2009 at 5:00 PM

It is really hard to keep an lunar orbitter in orbit around the Moon. First you have the interaction with Earth, but also the irreggular shape of the Moon is also a big problem since the orbitter is much closer to the Moon than on Earth because of its lower gravity. .

Jennifer March 2, 2009 at 5:44 PM

That would be awesome if it had a video camera on board videotaping its decent and destruction like Ranger 9.

John March 26, 2009 at 7:10 PM

I wonder if there are any pictures of the (junk) we (the usa) left behind? that would be so cool to see.

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