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.
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.