And there was another touch of space history marked during China's moon landing.
"Here is a very interesting angle," said James Rice, a science team member of the Mars Exploration Rover Project, Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University. "On this date in 1972, Apollo 17's Gene Cernan took the last steps from the moon's surface as he climbed aboard the Challenger lunar module."
Cernan served as mission commander for Apollo 17, which was NASA's final Apollo moon landing flight by astronauts.
Renewed moon exploration "This is a great day for lunar science and exploration, with the first successful soft landing on the surface of the Moon since the Soviet Union did it in 1976," said Clive Neal, a leading lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
"Congratulations to the Chang'e 3 team and China," Neal told SPACE.com.
Neal said that Chang'e 3's touchdown "demonstrates the potential for renewed robotic exploration on the lunar surface that will inevitably lead to new scientific discoveries. I am very excited!"