Chinese probe makes soft landing on moon

Dec. 14, 2013 at 10:28 AM   |   0 comments

BEIJING, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe has made a soft landing on the moon, a trying process that has been matched only by the United States and Russia, officials say.

The probe touched down in Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows, about 8:12 a.m. ET after roaring into space 12 days before atop a Long March-3B rocket, Xinhua news service reported.

The craft used sensors to determine the best landing spot before descending the last 300 feet to the surface.

Once on the ground, the probe is expected to deploy a robotic rover, the "Jade Rabbit," the BBC reported.

The 260-pound vehicle carries ground penetrating radar to gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust. It can reportedly climb 30-degree slopes and travel at more than 7 mph.

Sun Huixian, deputy engineer-in-chief supervising the landing, said that unlike the 20th century space race between Russia and the United States, China's moon landing was "more based on curiosity and exploration of the unknown universe," Xinhua said.

Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the technology China used for the landing "clearly has military implications because so much space technology is dual use," the BBC reported.

"Such a space observation and tracking system has implications not only for space exploration but for national security, as it can be used to maintain space surveillance, keeping watch over Chinese and other nations' space assets," he added.

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