China Lands Chang’e-4 on Far Side of the Moon

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

China made history on Thursday with the first soft landing on the far side of the moon.

Chang’e-4 successfully touched down in the South Pole–Aitken basin and later deployed the Yutu 2 rover. It was China’s second successful landing on the moon after Chang’e-3 touched down on the near side and deployed a rover in December 2013.

The lander includes the following payloads:

  • landing and terrain cameras;
  • a low-frequency spectrometer;
  • a neutrons and dosimetry (LND) dosimeter supplied by Kiel University in Germany;
  • a container with silkworm eggs and seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis thaliana; and,
  • a miniature camera to record the growth of the eggs and seeds.
A view of the moon from the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

The rover’s payloads include:

  • a panoramic camera;
  • a lunar penetrating radar system;
  • a visible and near-infrared imaging spectrometer; and,
  • and an advanced small analyzer for neutrals (ASAN) provided by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) to measure the interaction of the solar winds with the lunar surface.

The lander and rover will communicate with the Chang’e 4 relay satellite, which was launched last year.

PopSci’s Best of What’s New: Dragon V2, LDSD & Chang’e-3

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)
Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Science has published its year end  Best of What’s New list. In the aerospace category, the list included two NASA-funded programs and China’s first landing on the moon.

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 – Grand Award Winner

Elon Musk debuted a model of the human-rated Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in May. The vehicle, being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, could carry astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2016.

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:

The LDSD project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and air speeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission:


The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.
The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landed on the lunar surface in December 2013 and then deployed the Yutu rover to further explore the moon. The moon landing was the first for China, and it marked the first exploration of the lunar surface in nearly 40 years. China is aiming to return soil samples from the moon with its Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

Chinese Land Rover on Moon

Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)
Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

UPDATE: The Yutu rover has rolled out onto the moon.

China successfully soft landed a vehicle on the surface of the moon today, becoming only the third nation to accomplish this feat and the first to do so in 37 years.

The Chang’e-3 lander touched down in Sinus Iridum with its Yutu lunar rover. Yutu will be deployed for a three-month exploration of the surface. The lander and the rover each possess a sophisticated suite of instruments.


China Gets Busy Holiday Launch Season Off to a Good Start

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

UPDATE: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch has been shifted to Tuesday evening.

China has kicked off a busy month with the successful launch of the Chang’e-8 lunar rover mission. There are 15 launches on the manifests of the world’s rocket companies in December. If all missions are completed and none are added, there will be 85 orbital launches for the year.

SpaceX is the next to go on Tuesday evening, with the company hoping its third attempt to launch the SES-8 communications satellite is a charm.  The launch window opens at 5:41 p.m. EST, and SpaceX will webcast the attempt.

The company is hoping to get one more launch in by the end of 2013 on Dec. 20 with the Thaicom 6 satellite as the payload. Some other notable launches scheduled for December include:

  • Antares/Cygnus: Orbital Sciences first commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station (Dec. 17);
  • Soyuz 2-1v:  The first flight of Russia’s “light” version of the venerable booster (Dec. 23);
  • GSLV/GSAT 14:  India will make a re-flight of a cryogenic engine that failed to fire during its inaugural mission in April 2010 (TBD);
  • Long March 4B/CBERS 3: China will launch a Earth resources satellite jointly developed with Brazil (Dec. 10);
  • Atlas V/Delta IV: These two ULA military launches will bring the company’s total to 12 for the year (Dec. 5 & 12);



Launch Vehicle

Launch Site

Nation/Company /Agency





Falcon 9





Atlas V





Delta IV



GPS 2F-5





Cygnus 2


Falcon 9



Thaicom 6






Inmarsat 5







Soyuz 2-1v



AIST & Calibration Spheres





Express AM5



Long March 3B






Long March 4B





Long March 3B



Tupac Katari


Long March 4B



Gaofen 2




Satish Dhawan









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Moon Express Enables Private American Scientific Collaboration on China Moon Mission

The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.
The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

Silicon Valley, CA, December 1, 2013 (Moon Express PR) – Moon Express, a U.S. commercial lunar enterprise, is enabling scientific collaboration between the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and China’s Chang’e-3 Moon mission successfully launched today from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, southwest China.

The U.S. private sector collaboration on Chang’e-3 is made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between ILOA and the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) on September 4, 2012 in Hawaii, and a MOU signed between ILOA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on August 13, 2013, in Beijing.


China Launches Rover to Moon

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

A Chinese Long March-3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Launch Center early Monday morning carrying a six-wheel lunar rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit).

The Chang’e-3 lander is scheduled to touch down on China’s Sinus Iridum in mid-December, and Yutu will then begin a three-month exploration of the surface. The lander and the rover each possess a sophisticated suite of instruments.


Chinese to Launch Lunar Rover on Monday

(Credit: CNSA)
Model of Chinese lunar rover Yutu. (Credit: CNSA)

China’s surging space program will embark on its most ambitious robotic mission yet on Monday as it launches the Chang’e-3 mission to the moon. The spacecraft will land and deploy a six-wheel rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) that will explore the surface for three months.

The launch aboard a Long March-3B rocket from Xichang is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 a.m. local time (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. EST).  The moon landing — the first by any country since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976 — is scheduled for mid-December. Only the United States and Soviet Union have soft landed spacecraft on the lunar surface.

Chang’e is named for the Chinese goddess of the moon. Yutu is the jade rabbit kept by the goddess.


Space 2013: Space Agencies Head for Moon, Mars

Space agencies around the world are planning to launch four missions to other worlds this year, evenly split between the moon and Mars. NASA will orbiters to each destination, while China will attempt to become only the third nation to soft land on the moon. India also looks to make history with its first mission to Mars.

GLXP Update: Chinese Moon Success Would Reduce Prize Money

a full moon rises over Half Moon Bay in California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Attention, Google Lunar X Prize competitors! China is looking to take $5 million out of one of your pockets. And they may not be anything you can do about it.

China has announced definitive plans to launch its Chang’e-3 lunar mission during the second half of 2013. The mission includes a lander as well as a six-wheeled rover that will explore the lunar surface.

If the mission is successful, then the first prize in the  Google-sponsored private moon race will decrease from $20 million to $15 million. There are also a $5 million second prize and several bonus prizes for achievements on the lunar surface.

Given what is currently known about the GLXP competitors, it seems unlikely that any team is in a position to beat the well-funded Chinese program to the moon by the end of next year.

Teams have until the end of 2015 to claim the prize before the competition turns into a pumpkin.