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Tyneside, UK
2016 Feb 12
Friday, Day 43

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Chang'e Diary

This Diary is extracted from's 'Go For Launch' ongoing chronology of space events and includes all entries relating to Chang'e 3 and subsequent missions.

NOTE - following a link from within the diary will leave the Chang'e pages - use your 'Back' button to return here.

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Lunar Exploration Programme Approved
2008 Mar 1
Chinese government gives go-ahead for a programme of automated lunar exploration including landing spacecraft on the Moon, exploring the surface and returning a material sample to Earth.

Chang'e 3 - Commenced Building
Beijing, PRC
2012 Mar 1
Approximate date - engineers began assembling the vehicles.

Chang'e 3 - Construction Completed
Beijing, PRC
2013 Aug 28
Approximate date.

Chang'e 3 - Despatched to Xichang
2013 Sep 11
Departed the factory in Beijing to the launch site.

Chang'e 3 Rover - Request for Names
2013 Sep 25
During a ceremeony to present the rover, China announces that public are being asked to name it:

Chang'e 3 - Launching Rocket Leaves Beijing
2013 Oct 27
Launch vehicle departed from the factory by rail transport.

Chang'e 3 Launch Vehicle Arrival at Launch Site
Xichang SC
2013 Nov 1
Arrived by rail from Beijing. Mission Notes, including likely dates and times:

Chang'e 3 - Ready for Rollout
2013 Nov 24
Fully enclosed in payload shround and mounted on the launch vehicle.

Chang'e 3 News Conference
2013 Nov 26, 01:00
Expected to include announcement of launch date and time but referred only to early-December lift-off and mid-December landing. Revealed roving vehicle's name as "玉兔" (Pronounced "Yùtù"), chosen after a selection process involving suggestions from the Chinese public. Yutu is the white pet rabbit of the Moon Goddess Chang'e.

Chang'e 3 Launch
CZ-3B, Xichang SC
2013 Dec 1, 17:30
Chinese lunar lander including a small roving vehicle. Landing area is in the Sinus Iridum - the area was surveyed by Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2. Launch was to be to a Lunar transfer orbit about 200 x 362,000 km and the inclination is about 28°.4. Lunar arrival is Dec 6 and landing Dec 14 - see later Diary entries. Chang'e 3 ongoing Diary: Plot of the launch trajectory: Animation of major stages of the mission: Mission profile PDF - note... dowloading may be slow and may not be straightforward: Orbit notes: NORAD: 2013-070A/39458

Chang'e 3 - ESA Makes It's First Contact
2013 Dec 1, 18:34
Signal acquired by ground station at CSG near Kourou, French Guiana at 18:34:20 UTC. Initial tracking uses S-band then the X-band transmission is acquired at about 18:55 UTC. Chang'e is followed for about three hours and data received is passed back to Beijing control centre.

Chang'e 3 - 1st Mid-course Correction
CZ-3B, Xichang LC
2013 Dec 2, 07:50

Chang'e 3 - 2nd Mid-course Correction
CZ-3B, Xichang LC
2013 Dec 3
Successfully executed but details not available. Orbit notes:

Chang'e 3 - Tracking by ESA
2013 Dec 4, 13:00
Chang'e monitored from Kourou ground station for 11 hours with AOS 13:00:19 UTC. Data received is passed to Beijing control centre.

Chang'e 3 - 3rd Mid-course Correction
CZ-3B, Xichang LC
2013 Dec 5
Contained in the original flight plan but cancelled as not needed because of the precision of the second correction on December 3.. Orbit notes:

Chang'e 3 Lunar Arrival
CZ-3B, Xichang LC
2013 Dec 6, 09:53
Injection into polar inclined, selenocentric orbit followed a 361 seconds duration thruster firing. From launch to start of thruster firing was 112h 17m, for Chang'e 2 it was 112h 7m. The initial operational orbit was intended to be 100 km circular. Thruster firing probably led to a more elliptical orbit that was trimmed to 100 km with a few hours of arrival. China has not released details of how well the resulting orbit met expectations. Now awaiting landing.

Chang'e 3 - Orbit Adjustment
2013 Dec 10, 13:20
Thruster firing occurred while Chang'e was behind the Moon as seen from Earth. Loss of signal occurred 12:37 UTC and signal was re-acquired at 13:24 UTC. The time represents engine ignition but the firing duration is not known. From 100 km circular, the orbit was changed to 15 x 100 km. Periselene is at the latitude of Sinus Iridum in preparation for landing. Manoeuvre was a final practice for landing December 14 when engine firing will also occur behind the Moon.

Chang'e 3 Lunar Landing
Sinus Iridum, Moon
2013 Dec 14, 13:11
Landing in Mare Imbrium near Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows). Precise time 13:11:18 UTC. Note - the clock in mission control showed about 1.5s later, maybe due to time delay in radio signal reaching Earth (thanks to Patrick Schmeer). Chang'e started from its 15 x 100 km, polar inclined orbit. About one hour before commencing the landing sequence, it fired its engine to reduce periselene to 2km. Chang'e approached the landing zone from the south, final descent used the throttlable 1500 - 7500 Newton engine and landing occurred after a descent programme lasting for 750 seconds. It hovered for a few seconds 100 metres above the surface while an intelligent onboard system determined the safest touch-down point. The descent engine will switched off at 4 metres altitude and Chang'e dropped to the surface. The lander is expected to operate for about 12 months on the Moon. Equipment includes a detector operating in the extreme ultra violet region of the spectrum capable of 'seeing' the glow caused by energetic particles in the Earth's ionosphere, and a 150mm astronomical telescope. Mission and orbit notes:

Chang'e 3 - Release of Yutu Lunar Rover
2013 Dec 14, 20:35
Small six-wheel roving vehicle called "玉兔" (Pronounced "Yùtù") reached the lunar surface where it is expected to operate for three months. The operation to release it from Chang'e 3 commenced around 17:30 UTC. Yutu's first movement came at 19:10 UTC as it drove onto the Chang'e 3 ramp. (note - time for this entry has been updated). Yutu is the white pet rabbit of the Moon Goddess, Chang'e.

Chang'e 3 & Yutu - Lunar Surface Portrait session
2013 Dec 15, 15:43
After positioning Yutu on the lunar surface, Chang'e and Yutu obtained and transmitted images of each other from a distance of 9m apart. A mutual photo session lasting 20 hours will produce several images of the two vehicles from varying angles. The time is approximate. Afterwards, the two vehicles will commence their individual missions on the Moon.

Chang'e 3 - Delivery Mission "Complete Success"
2013 Dec 15, 16:00
The Chang'e 3 mission to land on the Moon and deliver the Yutu rover is declared a complete success by Ma Xingrui, commander of China's lunar programme.

Yutu - Close Down
on Moon
2013 Dec 16
Start of four day 'hibernation' to avoid effects of solar heating.

Yutu - Wake Up
on Moon
2013 Dec 20
End of four day 'hibernation' to avoid effects of solar heating.

Yutu - Close-Down
2013 Dec 26
Hibernation over Lunar night.

Chang'e 3 and Yutu - start of Lunar night
Lunar surface
2013 Dec 28
Both lander and rover shut down to hibernate during two-week lunar night.

Chang'e 3 and Yutu - New Lunar Day
Lunar surface
2014 Jan 12
Both the lander and the rover were revived successfully after two weeks in hibernation overnight.

Yutu Suffers Mechanical Failure
Lunar surface
2014 Jan 25
Occurred as lunar night approached - but China did not reveal details. Possibility that it is now stranded but with its instruments operating.

Chang'e 5 Test Vehicle - Launch
CZ-3C/2, Xichang SC
2014 Oct 23, 18:00
Engineering test mission for components of a Lunar sample return mission. The final stage of the launch vehicle carries an experiments package from the company Luxspace called 4M (Manfred Memorial Moon Mission) to commemorate the late Professor Manfred Fuchs. 4M includes a radio transmitter operating in the 2m amateur band that will operate continuously throughout the mission. The launch plan allowed for contingency days Oct 23 and Oct 24. The launch vehicle was an uprated and lengthened version of the current CZ-3C. Launch notes: NORAD: Chang'5 Test Vehicle - 2014-065A/40283 4M + rocket stage - 2014-065B/40284

Chang'e 5 Test Vehicle - Trans-Lunar Injection
on orbit
2014 Oct 23, 18:20
Upper-stage re-ignited for a 3-4 minute firing to push itself from LEO into a trajectory aimed at the Moon. The Lunar vehicle separated from the launch vehicle at a distance of 5000 km from Earth shortly after engine shut-down.. The journey to the Moon and subsequent return to Earth will be a full command and control ‘dress rehearsal’ for Chang'e 5 in 2017 including setting up the Earthbound trajectory, conducting mid-course corrections, tracking, atmosphere re-entry and vehicle recovery.

Chang'e 4 Launch
CZ-(3B?), Wenchan? SC
2015 Oct 1
Will deliver China's second lunar rover to the Moon's surface using the Chang'e 3 backup vehicle. It will test systems for the upcoming soil return mission, Chang'e 5 in 2017. Date is approximate.

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