The United States and the Soviet Union are the other countries to have accomplished so-called soft landings on the moon — in which a craft can work after landing — and 37 years have passed since the last such mission.
The successful arrival of the Chang’e-3 after a 13-day journey from Earth was reported on Chinese state television. At the time of the last soft landing, by the Soviet Union in 1976, Mao Zedong lay a month from death and China was in the twilight of his chaotic Cultural Revolution. Now China, much richer and stronger, aspires to become a globally respected power, and the government sees a major presence in space as a key to acquiring technological prowess, military strength and sheer status.
Chinese media celebrated the landing as a demonstration of the country’s growing scientific stature. Television reports showed engineers at the mission control center in Beijing crying, embracing and taking pictures of one another on their cellphones.
“The dream of the Chinese people across thousands of years of landing on the moon has finally been realized with Chang’e,” said the China News Service, a state-run news agency. “By successfully joining the international deep-space exploration club, we finally have the right to share the resources on the moon with developed countries.”