March 1, 2009

Chinese lunar probe hits moon

China's first unmanned lunar probe reached the moon's surface Sunday, completing its 16-month mission, Chinese sources said.

Sources with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense did not say how fast the orbiter, called Chang'e-1 -- named for a legendary Chinese moon goddess -- was traveling at impact, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The orbiter sent its first full map of the moon's surface back to China one month after it was launched Oct. 24, 2007. Part of its mission was to accumulate information to prepare for a soft landing of China's second lunar probe and rover by about 2012. The third phase, which will be about 2017, will involve another rover that will collect mineral samples and bring them back to Earth.