China’s Chang’e 3 is set to reignite Asia’s space race by performing the first lunar soft landing since 1976 

The China National Space Administration will launch its lunar explorer Chang’e 3 on early Monday morning (2 December).

Chang’e 3 is expected to perform the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976 with its lunar rover “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit) scheduled to explore the lunar surface and run scientific tests during its 3 month mission.

Chang’e 3, along with its predecessors Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 (launched in 2007 and 2010 respectively), is part of a multi-mission program which aims to put the first Chinese astronaut on the Moon by 2025.

The launch of the Chang’e 3 will reaffirm the ambitious nature of the Chinese space program with China becoming only the third country after the US and the former Soviet Union to soft land on the Moon.

With some commentators expecting the Chinese space program to surpass the US’s over the next decade, it will be interesting to see whether and how the US will respond to this latest development in Asia’s space race.