China today named the landing site of its first moon lander Chang’e-3 as “Guang Han Gong” or “Moon Palace”, more than two years after the spacecraft made a successful soft-landing on the earth’s only natural satellite.
Together with three nearby impact craters, the name was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), China’s State Administration of Science, Technology (SASTIND) and Industry for National Defense.
In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is the goddess of the moon while “Guang Han Gong” is the palace that houses Chang’e and her pet Yutu (Jade Rabbit).
The three craters were given the names Zi Wei, Tian Shi and Tai Wei, three constellations in traditional Chinese astrology, according to Liu Jizhong, director of the lunar exploration project of the SASTIND.
The lunar rover Yutu recently found a new type of basaltic rock that could shed light on lunar volcanism, according to an article published by Chinese scientists in the Nature Communications science journal last month.
A total of 22 lunar features have been given Chinese names.
The first crater was named Zu Chongzhi after a famous Chinese mathematician in 1961, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Rita Schulz, chair of the IAU Division F WG Planetary System Nomenclature, said landing sites on the moon can only be officially named when they are the first landing sites for the country’s spacecraft, the Xinhua report said.
Chang’e-3 is an unmanned lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), incorporating a robotic lander and China’s first lunar rover.
It made a successful soft-landing on the moon in December 2013 and was launched as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.