Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
carousel image
Chang'e 3

Scarborough, UK
2014 Sep 2
Tuesday, Day 245

Maintained by:

Chang'e 3 Diary

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

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

Date Time (UTC) Event
2008 Mar 1
Lunar Exploration Programme Approved
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.

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

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

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

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

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

2013 Nov 1
Chang'e 3 Launch Vehicle Arrival at Launch Site
Xichang SC
Arrived by rail from Beijing.

Mission Notes, including likely dates and times:

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

2013 Nov 26
Chang'e 3 News Conference
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.

2013 Dec 1
Chang'e 3 Launch
CZ-3B, Xichang SC
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

2013 Dec 1
Chang'e 3 - ESA Makes It's First Contact
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.

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

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

Orbit notes:

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

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

Orbit notes:

2013 Dec 6
Chang'e 3 Lunar Arrival
CZ-3B, Xichang LC
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.

2013 Dec 10
Chang'e 3 - Orbit Adjustment
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.

2013 Dec 14
Chang'e 3 Lunar Landing
Sinus Iridum, Moon
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:

2013 Dec 14
Chang'e 3 - Release of Yutu Lunar Rover
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.

2013 Dec 15
Chang'e 3 & Yutu - Lunar Surface Portrait session
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.

2013 Dec 15
Chang'e 3 - Delivery Mission "Complete Success"
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Oct 1
Chang'e 4 Launch
CZ-(3B?), Wenchan? SC
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.

2017 Oct 1
Chang'e 5 Launch
CZ-(3B?), Wenchan? SC
Chinese lunar lander to retrieve a surface soil sample and return it to Earth.

Date is approximate.

Page date: 2012 Jun 30

Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited