Earlier this month, China launched its very first unmanned spacecraft Chang’e-3 to the Moon. The good news is this Saturday, this unmanned spacecraft successfully landed on the Moon.
Until now, spacecrafts of two countries successfully landed on the Moon – the United States and Russia. But Chang’e-3‘s successfully landing on the Moon enabled China to hold the third place. However, the lunar probe Chang’e-3 began to carry out its soft-landing on the Moon at 9 pm and 11 minutes later, it touched down in Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows. The probe softly landed as it was equipped with shock absorbers in its four “legs” to cushion the impact of the landing.
During the landing process, the probe decelerated from 15 km above the moon, stayed hovering at 100 meters from the lunar surface to use sensors to assess the landing area to avoid obstacles and locate the final landing spot, and descended slowly onto the surface. Note that, Chang’e-3 relied on auto-control for descent, range and velocity measurements, finding the proper landing point, and free-falling.
Chang’e-3 includes a lander and a moon rover called “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit). Yutu has six wheels and it runs on solar-power. It has four cameras and two mechanical arms designed to dig for sample soil on the Moon’s surface. Yutu will survey the Moon’s geological structure and surface substances. It will also look for natural resources. The lander will operate there for one year while the rover will be there for three months.