December 2, 2013
(ARTICLE UPDATE: The Chang’e-3 spacecraft has launched and is on its way to the moon.)
Shortly after China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft departs Earth to land on the Moon, ESA’s network of tracking stations will swing into action, providing crucial support for the vessel’s five-day lunar cruise.
China’s Chang’e-3, named after the mythological goddess of the Moon, is scheduled for lift off on 1 December from the Xichang launch base in China’s Sichuan province on a journey to deposit a lander and a six-wheeled rover on the lunar surface.
The landing, in the Sea of Rainbows on 14 December, will be the first since Russia’s Luna-24 in 1976.
Immediately after liftoff, ESA’s station in Kourou, French Guiana, will start receiving signals from the mission and uploading commands on behalf of the Chinese control centre.
image credit: ESA, CNSA