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China's Lunar Probe to Land on Moon Next Month
SOURCE: Xinhua     UPDATED: 2013-11-28

BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- China is scheduled to launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe to the moon in early December, marking the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, an official said Tuesday.

Chang'e-3 encompasses a lander and a moon rover called "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit). The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything is successful, said Wu Zhijian, spokesman with State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

The Chang'e-3 mission is the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.

Chinese scientists have made technological breakthroughs for the Chang'e-3 mission, which will be the most complicated and difficult task in China's space exploration, Wu said.

"More than 80 percent of the technologies adopted in the mission are new," he said.

The mission will witness China's first soft landing and exploration on an extraterrestrial object, remote control of the lunar probe and deep space communications, Wu said.

Scientists must ensure a timely launch because of multiple narrow windows of time. Different trajectory parameters have to be adopted quickly as intervals between the windows are very short, he said.

Many technologies will be used to ensure the probe makes a soft landing on the moon's surface under low-gravity conditions, Wu said.

The rover will separate from the lander to explore areas surrounding the landing spot, he said.

The lunar program will also see breakthroughs in remote control between the moon and Earth and survival of the rover on the lunar surface.

Technologies of high precision observation and control as well as lunar positioning will be used in the mission, which also includes experiments that would be extremely difficult to conduct on Earth's surface, he said.