China's Moon Missions Explained (Infographic)

Diagram shows Chinese moon flights.
China's Chang'e series of lunar probes are part of a series leading up to ultimately returning samples of moon rock to the Earth. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) to explore the moon has several phases, with the ultimate goal of returning moon rock samples to the Earth.

In 2007, Chang'e 1 mapped the moon from orbit. After completing its mission, the spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface in 2009 as planned.

In 2010, Chang'e 2 orbited the moon, then left orbit to swing past an asteroid and then explore deeper into space.

Moon Photos by China's Chang'e 2 Lunar Orbiter (Gallery)

In 2013, Chang'e 3 with the Yutu rover became the first Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon. [Chang'e 3 Launch Photos]

Chang'e 3 Photos: China's 1st Moon Lander & Rover Mission

In 2014, the test capsule Chang'e-5-TI flew past the moon and looped back around to Earth to practice for an eventual lunar sample return mission.

China's First Round-trip Moon Mission in Pictures

In 2017, China is expected to launch Chang'e-5, which will land on the moon, collect up to 4 lbs. (2.2 kg) of samples, and then lift off for the return trip to Earth.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.