Chinese Lunar Exploration Program

Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) (simplified Chinese: 中国探月; traditional Chinese: 中國探月; pinyin: Zhōngguó Tànyuè), also known as the Chang'e program, is a program of robotic and human missions to the Moon undertaken by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the space agency of the People's Republic of China. The program makes use of the Chang'e lunar orbiters, lunar rovers and sample return spacecraft, launched on adapted Long March 3A, Long March 5/E and Long March 7 launch vehicles. Launches and flights are monitored constantly by a Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) system, which uses 50-m radio antennas in Beijing and 40-m antennas in Kunming, Shanghai and Ürümqi to form a 3,000-km VLBI antenna. A proprietary ground application system is responsible for downlink data reception.

Ouyang Ziyuan, a prominent Chinese geologist and cosmochemist, was among the first to advocate the exploitation not only of known lunar reserves of metals such as iron, but also of lunar helium-3, an ideal fuel for future nuclear fusion power plants. Ouyang, one of the strongest supporters of the Chinese human lunar exploration program, is currently serving as the chief scientist of the program. Another prominent Chinese scientist, Sun Jiadong, was assigned as the general designer, while a younger scientist, Sun Zezhou (孙泽州) was assigned as the deputy general designer. The current leading program manager is Luan Enjie (栾恩杰).

The first spacecraft of the program, the unmanned lunar orbiter Chang'e 1, was successfully launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on October 24, 2007, having been delayed from the initial planned date of 17–19 April 2007. A second unmanned orbiter, Chang'e 2, was launched successfully on October 1, 2010. Chang'e 3, China's first lunar rover, is expected to launch in 2013. A manned expedition may occur in 2025-2030.

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