According to officials of China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, the Sunday landing of the country’s first satellite - Chang’e I - on the moon marks the completion of the mission that lasted 16 months.
It was at 4:13 pm Beijing time that the 2,350-kg Chang’e I made an impact with the surface of the moon at 1.50 degrees south latitude and 52.36 degrees east longitude. The landing process began at around 3:36 pm, when Chang’e I began decelerating, as the two observation and control stations in Qingdao and Kashgar remotely controlled its movements.
Named after a legendary Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e I – which took off on October 24, 2007 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center atop a Long March 3-A carrier rocket - spent 494 days in space.
The satellite’s controlled crash on the moon’s surface is the opening step in the direction of China’s objective of landing “robotic explorers” on the moon before 2020.
According to the administration, the next stage of China’s three-stage moon mission would be its 2012 launch of a lunar rover; followed by the final 2017 stage whereby another lunar rover will land on the moon and get back to the Earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research. Thereafter, the ultimate manned lunar landing will be scheduled, likely before 2020!