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Chang'e-1 is the first Chinese mission to explore the Moon. Chang’e 1 is the first part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. The China National Space Administration (CNSA), a civilian agency of the People’s Republic of China, conducts the lunar exploration program. Chang’e is named after the mythological Chinese goddess of the Moon (Woman of the Moon).

Chang'e 1 Picture - First Chinese Moon SpacecraftChang'e 1 is planned to be the first of a series of Chinese missions to the Moon. A Chinese Long March 3A rocket will launch the lunar orbiting spacecraft from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province. It will orbit the Earth while increasing its apogee (furthest point of its orbit from the Earth) until it attains an orbit for the Moon.

Once in orbit about the Moon, the spacecraft will take pictures of the lunar surface with a stereo camera/spectrometer imager, including photographs of the northern and southern pole regions; investigate and analyze elements on the lunar surface, including locations of large deposits of elements, and take measurements of the lunar subsurface, including measurements of helium-3 (although rare on the Earth, it is thought to exist on the Moon).

A probe will also be sent out to perform analysis of the space between the Moon and the Earth, specifically in the region of 40,000 to 400,000 kilometers (25,000 to 250,000 miles) from the Earth in order to investigate the solar wind and other activities from the Sun.

The 2,350-kilogram (5,180-pound) orbiting spacecraft was completed as of December 2006. The spacecraft contains numerous instruments to investigate the Moon including a high-energy Sun particle detector, laser altimeter, microprobe instruments, three-dimensional charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras, gamma and x-ray spectrometer, and microwave radiometer. The Chang’e spacecraft will remain in orbit about the Moon for about one year.

Chinese Lunar Exploration Program

Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is a program of unmanned and manned missions to the Moon by China. According to the plan, the program will go through three milestones:

1. Orbiting: Chang'e 1 in 2007
2. Landing: Chang'e 2 in 2008-2009 - deploy a lunar lander for surface exploration in a limited area on the moon.
3. Returning: Chang'e 3 in 2012-2017 - a lunar sample return mission


The Chang'e-1 orbiter has four science objectives:

1. To 'draw' pictures of the moon, or to obtain 3-dimensional imagery of the lunar surface
2. To detect the contents and distribution of a number of chemical elements on the lunar surface
3. To probe preliminarily the depth of lunar soil, or regolith
4.  To explore the cislunar space environment


1991: Chinese space experts proposed lunar exploration program proposal and conducted some advanced research.

1998: COSTIND formally began planning and definition of the concept of China's Lunar Exploration Program.

November 2000: White Paper on China's Space Activities clearly stated to carry out study for deep space exploration centering on lunar exploration.

January 2004: The State Council of China approved the Phase I of the Lunar Exploration Program, i.e. Lunar Orbiting Exploration Project.

February 2004: The leading group for China's Lunar Orbiting Exploration Project established and held its first meeting where the general requirements and development plan of Lunar Orbiting Exploration Project were determined and the lunar exploration program was named Chang'e Program.

November 2004: Chang'e Program completed the design and development in concept phase, the program entered the prototype development phase.

December 2005: R&D and construction of a prototype probe were finished. A large number of key technological problems had been solved through technical problem-tackling, system integration and relevant tests.

2006: R&D and manufacture of flight model of Chang'e-1 satellite and launch vehicle continued development. The orbiting spacecraft was completed as of December 2006.

Did you know?

* The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is the civilian agency of the government of the People's Republic of China which is responsible for national space policy constituting the space program of China.

The agency was created in 1993 when the Ministry of Aerospace Industry was split into CNSA and the China Aerospace Corporation (CASC).

* Check the Moon Missions page for a list of all missions to the moon.

* Shenzhou 6 the second manned mission was launched on October 12, 2005 and Shenzhou 7 will be launched in 2008.

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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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