CHICAGO, Dec. 16 -- China's recent success in soft-landing a spacecraft on the Moon is a milestone in space history, according to a Purdue University professor of aeronautics and astronautics.
"I am very excited about the great venture that China has undertaken and hope that it will spur greater commitment by all nations to explore space," said Prof. James Longuski in an interview with Xinhua on Monday.
Comprising a lander and Moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, Chang'e-3 lunar probe soft-landed on moon at 9:11 p.m. Saturday Beijing Time. Yutu later separated from the lander and rolled to moon surface earlier Sunday.
According to Longuski, who is also an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), "China becomes the third space faring nation to accomplish such a monumental achievement and has demonstrated that they are serious about making their mark in pursuing the final frontier."
When the American spacecraft, Surveyor 1, soft-landed on the Moon in 1966 -- it was only three years later that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on it.
Although China has not officially announced any intention to fly a human mission to the Moon, the door is now open and -- if they have the will -- nothing will stand in their way, Longuski said.
He believes that China is likely to expand its horizon in space travel and the possibility of sending humans to the Moon is within their grasp.
Prof. Longuski has published over 200 conference and journal papers in astrodynamics including such topics as spacecraft dynamics and control, reentry theory, mission design, space trajectory optimization, and a new test of General Relativity.
He has also published two books, Advice to Rocket Scientists (AIAA, 2004) and How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist (Springer, 2007).