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China's Chang'e 3 successfully lands on the moon

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According to a December 14, 2013 post on NASASpaceFlight.com, the Chinese probe Chang’e 3 has successfully landed on the lunar surface at about 8:10 a.m. EST. It is the first lunar landing since the Soviet Union landed Luna 24 in 1976.

Chang’e 3 entered lunar orbit on December 6, 2013. Then it underwent a series of maneuvers to prepare for the landing on the moon’s Bay of Rainbows.

“Upon entering lunar orbit, Chang’e-3 underwent six stages of deceleration to descend from 15 km above to the lunar surface using a variable thrust engine. During the descent the attitude of the probe was controlled using 28 small thrusters.

“Following deceleration, the vehicle quickly adjusted its attitude, approaching the lunar surface. During this phase the instruments analyzed the planned descent area.

“The main engine automatically shutdown at an altitude of four meters,”

The next step will be for the Chang’e 3’s solar panels to deploy and to charge the Jade Rabbit rover. The probe also has an RTG power system that will allow it to last for at least three months on the lunar surface. Jade Rabbit will range as far as 10 kilometers from the Chang’e 3, examining the moon with a variety of instruments, including a ground penetrating radar to measure lunar soil depth and structural distribution of soil, magma, lava tubes and sub-surface rock layers. Both the Chang’e 3 and Jade Rabbit will have video cameras to send back images to Earth in real time.

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