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China lands rover on moon's surface, a first for the country

Sharon Gaudin | Dec. 16, 2013
First Chinese craft to land on an extraterrestrial body will study moon's surface before China sends astronauts there.

China's lunar probe, and the moon rover it carried, landed successfully Saturday night, marking a major accomplishment for the country's space efforts.

This is the first time a spacecraft from China has landed on an extraterrestrial body. China becomes the third country, after the United States and Russia, to land a spacecraft on the moon.

China's Chang'e-3 craft lifted off early on Dec. 2 on top of an enhanced Long March-3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

The spacecraft began slowing a little more than nine miles above the moon's surface. It then hovered at about 300 feet above the surface where to onboard sensors checked for obstacles and found a safe landing spot. Then the craft slowly descended to the surface, according to China's Xinhua News Agency.

The Chang'e-3 carried a lander and a moon rover named Yutu, or Jade Rabbit. The rover is slated to survey the moon's geological structure and surface materials, while also looking for natural resources, reported Xinhua.

The news agency said China is planning to send astronauts on future moon missions, though it didn't provide details.

In September, the U.S. launched a lunar craft called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory.

The NASA craft completed its first task, a test of a high-data-rate laser communication system in space and is now orbiting the moon and studying its atmosphere.


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