BEIJING, Dec. 14 -- China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 is scheduled to make an attempt to soft-land on the moon on Saturday night, according to sources in charge of the mission.
The entire process of soft-landing will last 12 minutes and it will be performed by the probe itself, with "practically zero" chance of manual intervention being required, said the sources on Saturday, adding that the Chang'e-3 mission has so far proceeded as planned.
The probe will start decelerating from 15 km above the lunar surface until its relative speed is reduced from 1.7 km/s to nil. It will stay suspended at 100 meters above the moon to assess the landing area in order to avoid obstacles and locate the final landing spot.
Chang'e-3 will land in Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a lunar area that remains unstudied and should enable smooth communication and ample sunshine with its level terrain.
However, the sources noted that unknown features such as lunar rocks, pits and entrenchments might still influence the outcome of the landing.
If landing is successful, moon rover "Yutu" will leave the lander for mobile exploration while the lander will conduct surveying from its fixed position.
China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with the country's first moon rover onboard on Dec. 2, marking a significant step toward deep space exploration.