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Scarborough, UK
2014 Sep 21
Sunday, Day 264

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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.

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.

2010 Mar 1
Chang'e 1 Impacts Lunar Surface
Chinese lunar spacecraft launched 2007 Oct.

Retro-fire initiated 07:36 UTC by two observation and control stations in east China's Qingdao and northwest China's Kashi. Hit the lunar surface 1.50 deg S, 52.36 deg E.

Twelve testsof the onboard propulsion system were carried out while Chang'e-1 was in lunar orbit.

2010 Oct 1
Chang'e 2 Launch
CZ-3C, Xichang SC LC-2
Successful lift off at 10:59:57 at the beginning of a 30 minute launch window. S-band signals from Chang'e were received immediately the fairing separated. Chang'e 2 separated from the final stage of the CZ-3C 26 minutes after launch and the solar array was fully deployed three minutes later.

About three hours into the flight, the X-band dish was deployed and the first data transmission from it occurred a few minutes later.

The launch azimuth was 99°, which produced 29° inclination to the Earth's equator for the initial coast phase. Declination of Moon at launch was 22° north. A short coast phase built into the powered ascent programme allowed the 200 km perigee of the lunar trajectory to be near the Earth's equator.

Three tracking ships were used Yuanwang 5, Yuanwang 3 and Yuanwang 6 located in the western, south-western and southern Pacific Ocean respectively. The three locations were directly under the initial launch trajectory.

Chang'e 2Chang'e 2 is built around the backup vehicle for Chang'e 1. The purpose of the mission is to refine lunar launch, trajectory and orbiting techniques. Chang'e 2 carries imaging equipment and detectors aimed at preparing the way to a landing in 2013 by Chang'e 3.

Chang'e 2 uses X-band, 7-12 GHz to return data. S-band is used for tracking and control.

Chang'e 1 transmitted at the S-band frequency 2234.52 MHz:


2010 Oct 2
Chang'e 2 First Trajectory Correction
en-route to Moon
Planned course correction to iron-out a small trajectory error resulting from the launch.

2010 Oct 3
Chang'e 2 Second Trajectory Correction Cancelled
en-route to Moon
Following success of the first trajectory correction Oct 2, a second, planned correction proves not to be necessary.

2010 Oct 5
Chang'e 2 Third Trajectory Correction Cancelled
en-route to Moon
Following success of the first and only trajectory correction Oct 2, a third, and final, planned correction proves not to be necessary.

2010 Oct 6
Chang-e 2 - engine Firing for Lunar Orbit
ChangBeginnining of 32 minute engine firing to put Chang'e 2 into orbit around the Moon.

The highest point on the orbit was measured as 8631 kilometres, close to the planned 120 x 8,600 kilometres with orbital period 12 hours.

Transit time from the Earth was 112 hours on a direct trajectory, about one third the time taken by Chang'e 1 which arrived by way of an elliptical orbit around the Earth that was raised several times.

2010 Oct 7
Chang'e 2 - First Orbit Adjustment
Beginning of approximately 10 minute engine firing to adjust Chang'e 2's orbit.

The purpose was to reduce the orbit height and, apparently, also set up imaging opportunities for the Sinus Iridium area - the proposed landing site for Chang'e 3 in 2013.

The Chinese announcement is difficult to translate - either a reduction in inclination of 3.2 degrees occurred, or the ground track was shifted by 3.2 degrees. The inclination is not known but is near-polar.

2010 Oct 8
Chang'e 2 - Second Orbit Adjustment
Beginning of 17 minute engine firing to adjust Chang'e 2's orbit.

The apoapsis, was reduced to 1830 kilometres, taking the orbital period down to 3.5 hours.

2010 Oct 9
Chang'e 2 - Third and Final Orbit Adjustment
ChangBeginning of 15 minute engine firing to adjust Chang'e 2's orbit.

The result was a 101 x 103 kilometre, circular orbit with a period of 118 minutes. The inclination is not known but is near-polar.

Chang'e 2 is now ready to begin its work programme.

2010 Nov 3
Chang'e 2 - Fully Operational
Lunar orbit
After a full systems checkout and testing programme, Chang'e 2 begins its Lunar exploration mission.

Initially scheduled to run for six months, it will culminate in high definition imagery of the Sinus Iridium area where Chang'e 3 will set down a landing vehicle.

2011 Apr 1
Chang'e 2 - Six Months
lunar orbit
China's Chang'e 2 reaches its design target of six months in space, most of which is in orbit around the Moon. All systems are fully working and the mission has moved into Phase 2.

One major, completed, target was photography, from 15 km altitude, of the Sinus Iridium area - the potential landing site for Chang'e 3 around 2013.

Phase 2 will include repeating the Sinus Iridium photography. It is undecided whether Chang'e 2 will end its life around the Moon or if it will be directed to fly into deep space as a test mission.

2011 May 23
Chang'e 2 Completes Further Work
lunar orbit
Having finished its planned six month lunar mission 2011 April 1, Chang'e 2 has completed two further tasks:

1 - imaging of the Moon's north and south polar regions,

2 - further imaging of the planned Chang'e 3 landing site, in the Sinus Iridium, from a height of 15 km.

2011 Jun 9
Chang'e 2 Departs from the Moon
lunar orbit
Spare propellant aboard the spaceraft allowed its thrusters to be used to provide sufficient energy for it to break free from lunar orbit. Precise time of engine firing - 08:50:05 UTC.

It is headed for the the Earth-Sun system's L2 Lagrange Point, about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Chang'e 2 is expected to arrive there September 2.

It is expected that communication can be maintained at least until the end of 2011 to allow testing of China's deep space network. It is hoped that it will survive the deep space environment until late 2012 by which time two new ground stations will have been completed.

Having finished its planned six month lunar mission 2011 April 1, Chang'e 2 undertook two further tasks:

1 - imaging of the Moon's north and south polar regions,

2 - further imaging of the planned Chang'e 3 landing site, in the Sinus Iridium, from a height of 15 km.

2011 Aug 28
Chang'e 2 Arrival at L2 Libration Point
deep space
Arrival at L2 Libration point in the Sun-Earth gravitation system.

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

2012 Apr 15
Chang'e 2 Leaves Vicinity of Earth
Departed from Sun-Earth L-2 Lagrange point where it had been since 2011 August - heading for minor planet 4179 Toutatis.

2012 Dec 13
Chang'e 2 - Toutatis Arrival
08:30:09 UTC
Test of China's deep space command, control and communications system. Precise time was 08:30:09 UTC at a distance of 3.2 km and with a closing speed of 10.73 km/s.

Images, etc via the Planetary Society:

The event followed by one day Toutatis's closest approach to Earth at about seven million kilometres, and was about three weeks earlier than originally anticipated so Chang'e may have made a small trajectory adjustment since departing the Sun-Earth L-2 Lagrange point 2012 Apr 15 - where it had been since 2011 August after leaving the Moon.

2013 Jul 14
Chang'e 2 - Still Going
deep space
Passed a point 50,000,000 kilometres from Earth and still operating.

Launched to the Moon 2010 October 1 to survey the Chang'e 3 landing site.

Mid 2011 - moved to Earth-Sun Lagrange Point 2 as a test of deep space communications.

2012 Dec 13 - made close fly-by of asteroid 4179, Toutatis.

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.

2014 Oct 23
Chang'e Lunar Sample Container Test Flight - Launch
CZ-3(B2?), Xichang SC
Engineering test mission for components of a Lunar sample return mission.

The vehicle will carry 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.

Date and time provided by Luxspace, formal confirmation is awaited..

The launch vehicle will be a uprated and lengthened version of the current CZ-3B.

2014 Oct 23
Chang'e Lunar Sample Container Test Flight - Trans-Lunar Injection
on orbit
Upper-stage will re-ignite for a 3-4 minute firing to push itself from LEO into a trajectory aimed at the Moon. The Lunar vehicle will separate 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.

Time is an estimate based on earlier missions, formal confirmation is awaited.

2014 Oct 27
Chang'e Lunar Sample Container Test Flight - Lunar Fly-by
near Moon
Approximate time of passage behind the Moon as seen from Earth. Vehicle will meet the Moon at orbit descending node.

While in the vicinity of the Moon, a simulated transfer of a soil sample between a sample collecting vehicle and the return vehicle may be attempted.

The time shown was provided by Luxspace and is subject to confirmation. It implies Lunar flyby will be several hours before the Moon rises over Chinese tracking stations.

2014 Nov 2
Chang'e Lunar Sample Container Test Flight - Landing
Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia
On return to the vicinity of the Earth, the probe will release a prototype re-entry vehicle to test the heat shield.

The re-entry vehicle is aimed to land in Mongolia in an area near the Shenzhou landing zone. It will follow a 'skip' re-entry where an initial dip into the atmosphere will slow the speed and lead to reduced heat loading. It will be followed by a second re-entry on a ballistic trajectory.

Date and time shown are for the expected time of landing and were provided by Luxspace. Formal confirmation awaited.

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

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