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Chang'e 3 is a Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) lunar landing mission designed to study the Sinus Iridum area of the Moon with a small rover. Chang'e 3 comprises two modules, a Service Module and a Lunar Landing Vehicle (LLV) with a total mass of 3700 - 3800 kg. The LLV consists of a soft lander and rover, designated Yutu (Jade Rabbit). The lander has a mass of 1200 kg and will carry seven scientific instruments. It is designed to operate on the lunar surface for 3 months using a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). The Yutu rover is about 1.5 meters tall and has a mass of 120 kg with a 20 kg payload consisting of eight instruments.
Chang'e-3 launched aboard a Changzheng-3B (Long March 3B) rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 1 December 17:30 UT (2 December 1:30 a.m. BJST local time). The spacecraft was inserted into a 100 km circular parking orbit around the Moon on 6 December at 09:53 UT (5:53 p.m. Beijing time) after a 361-second braking maneuver. The dates of planned activities are not known exactly. On 10 December the LLV will separate from the Service Module and go into a 100 x 15 km orbit at an inclination of 45 degrees. At periapse on 14 December, the LLV will fire its thrusters and descend to 100 meters above the surface. It will hover at this altitude to move to a suitable landing site, then will descend to 4 meters and cut off its engines to fall to the surface. The LLV is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The Yutu rover will roll onto the lunar surface on 15 December. The lander is designed to operate for approximately one year on the lunar surface.
The Yutu rover was designed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is a six-wheeled vehicle powered by solar cells. Mounted on top of the LLV, it will drive down a ramp onto the lunar surface after landing. It has a maximum total range of 10 km and can explore an area of 3 square km over 90 Earth days. Instruments include a camera, optical telescope, subsurface radar, spectrometers, and a collector to pick up samples for analysis. Data will be transmitted back to Earth in real time.
Image Credit: CCTV News