Why China's Moon Mission Matters

It could learn a lot about what we don't know about

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 8, 2014 11:50 AM CST

(Newser) – Last month China became the third country to "soft land" on the moon, and as the Los Angeles Times points out, most residents of the second country to do so (that would be America) didn't bat an eyelash. But Chang'e 3 is blowing away one group: lunar scientists. The last soft landing happened in 1976, and, nearly four decades on, this lander and rover comes to the moon with the latest technology: ground-penetrating radar, an extreme ultraviolet camera, a near-ultraviolet telescope, and spectroscopic instruments.

And with the modern equipment, it may be able to amass new info about the lunar soil—information that it's believed the Chinese will share with American experts (the Times notes that US law prevents NASA from collaborating with China, though). Those experts believe new findings could emerge about the moon's history—and, with it, the history of our own planet. And because the composition and depth of the soil will be investigated, China might gain insight into how to best design equipment able to mine for elements there. And many are pointing out the simple fact that China has landed where no US or Soviet lander has gone before—smack dab in the right eye of the "Man in the Moon." (See the first photos from the landing here.)

In this image taken by the on-board camera of the lunar probe Chang'e-3, China's first moon rover 'Yutu' - or Jade Rabbit - is on the lunar surface.   (AP Photo / Xinhua)
This Saturday Dec. 14, 2013 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, shows a picture of the moon surface taken by the on-board camera of the lunar probe Chang'e-3.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Jianmin)
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