"The Planetary Society congratulates the engineers and scientists of the Chang'e 1 mission on the successful launch of their lunar orbiter spacecraft today," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Society. "We welcome China as the newest space-faring nation engaged in the peaceful exploration of the solar system."
China's launch is the fourth planetary liftoff this year (following Phoenix, Dawn, and Kaguya) and the second moon mission in a new International Lunar Decade. This new "decade," proposed and advocated by The Planetary Society, began last month with Japan's launch of the Kaguya lunar orbiter.
"We hope that it will conclude with the 2020 return to the Moon by humans now planned by the United States," said Friedman
China's Chang'e 1 launched successfully from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan at 10:05 UTC on October 24, 2007. Learn more about, and see photos of, the launch.
Both Chang'e and Kaguya are named after women connected with lunar folk tales. Chang'e is a woman who accidentally swallowed too large of a dose of immortality and floated to the moon. Kaguya was a princess from the moon people in Japan's tale of a bamboo-cutter who discovers a beautiful baby girl and raises her, only to have the radiant young woman return to the moon.
The Society welcomes and encourages peaceful exploration of the solar system by all nations. In addition to China and Japan, the U.S., India, Russia, Italy and Germany are planning lunar missions. A competition, sponsored by Google and the X-Prize Foundation, was recently announced, calling for a private lunar lander to be flown within the coming decade. The U.S. and India are planning launches next year.