Timeline of China’s Lunar Exploration Program from 2007 to 2035+

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), also known as the Chang’e Project, is an ongoing series of robotic Moon missions by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The program incorporates lunar orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft, launched using Long March rockets. Launches and flights are monitored by a telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) system, which uses 50-meter radio antennas in Beijing and 40-meter antennas in Kunming, Shanghai, and Ürümqi to form a 3,000-kilometer VLBI antenna.

CLEP Phases

Lunar Orbital Missions

Lunar Soft Landers / Rovers

Lunar Sample Return Missions

Lunar Robotic Research Station

Crewed Lunar Missions

International Moon Base

CLEP Missions

October 24, 2007

Chang’e-1

Chang’e 1 launched on 24 October 2007 and scanned the entire Moon in detail, generating a high definition 3D map that would provide a reference for future soft landings. The probe also mapped the abundance and distribution of various chemical elements on the lunar surface as part of an evaluation of potentially useful resources.

October 1, 2010

Chang’e-2

Chang’e 2 was launched on 1 October 2010. The probe mapped the Moon in even greater detail.

December 2, 2013

Chang’e-3 and Yutu-1

Chang’e 3 was launched on 2 December 2013 and landed on the Moon on 14 December 2013. It carried with it a 140 kilograms lunar rover named Yutu, which was designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometers during a 3-month mission.

October 23, 2014

Chang’e-5-T1

Chang’e 5-T1 was launched on 23 October 2014. It was designed to test the lunar return spacecraft to be used by Chang’e-5.

May 20, 2018

Queqiao

Queqiao relay satellite, also known as the Chang’e 4 Relay, is a communications relay and radio astronomy satellite for the Chang’e 4 lunar farside mission. The Quegiao relay satellite was launched on 20 May 2018 to a halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian point.

December 7, 2018

Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2

Chang’e 4 was launched on 7 December 2018. The probe was originally scheduled for 2015 and was a back-up for Chang’e 3. However, as a result of the success of that mission, the configuration of Chang’e 4 was adjusted for the next mission. It landed on 3 January 2019 on the South Pole-Aitken Basin, on the far side of the Moon, and deployed the Yutu-2 rover.

November 23, 2020

Chang’e-5

Chang’e 5 was launched on 23 November 2020. The probe landed near Mons Rümker on the Moon on 1 December 2020, and returned to Earth with 2 kilograms of lunar soil on 16 December 2020.

2024E

Chang’e-6

Chang’e 6 will investigate the topography, composition and subsurface structure of the South Pole-Aitken basin. The mission will return samples to Earth.

2026E

Chang’e-7

Chang’e 7 is a mission that will explore the south pole for resources. The mission will include an orbiter, a relay satellite, a lander, a mini-flying probe, and the Rashid 2 rover provided by the United Arab Emirates.

2027E

Chang’e-8

Chang’e 8 will verify the utilization and development of natural resources. It may include a lander, a rover, and a flying detector, as well as a 3D-printing experiment using in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to test-build a structure, It will also transport a small sealed ecosystem experiment. It will test technologies necessary to the construction of a lunar science base.

2030E

Crewed Lunar Landing

China is currently working on plans and required technologies for a crewed lunar landing.

2035E

International Lunar Research Station

The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) is a planned lunar base currently being developed by Roscosmos and CNSA. The ILRS will serve as a scientific experiment base built on the lunar surface or in lunar orbit that can carry out scientific research activities including exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification, and long-term autonomous operation. Statements from Roscosmos and CNSA emphasize that the project will be “open to all interested countries and international partners.”