Fresh from this summer’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft’s 13-day mission docking with space lab module Tiangong-1, China’s readying to return to space yet again… this time to the Moon.
It?s all part of China?s grand plans for exploring the Moon and planets, all of which is detailed in the white paper, China?s Space Activities.
The new mission, the Chang’e-3, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, includes a moon lander and robotic rover, and will blast aloft atop a Long March-5 rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan province.
The expedition is scheduled for 2013 and will be the first soft landing on the lunar surface since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976. Previously, Chang’e-1 crashed to the Moon’s surface in March, 2009, and Chang’e-2, from October, 2010, is still aloft having departed lunar orbit to continue an extended mission to asteroid 4179 Toutatis.
The Chang?e-3 rover is a six-wheeled robot currently undergoing durability and endurance testing in the deserts of western China.
Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s lunar exploration program said that the rover will incorporate intelligent robot technology that will allow it to explore and analyze an area up to 16,400 feet (5,000 m) from Chang?e-3’s lander.
Ouyang said Chang’e-3’s rover is China’s most advanced robot, complete with automatic navigation and operations, and carries a nuclear-powered battery that will last throughout the long and cold lunar nights…and last up to 30 years.
The lander will touch down at the moon’s Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, with four other sites earmarked as backups.
Ye Peijian, chief commander of Chang’e-3 at China Academy of Space Technology, said that “The probe will take more scientific equipment than its predecessors, mainly to detect, collect and analyze samples on the Moon,”
The 100-kilogram rover will operate on the surface for at least three months. It must be capable of avoiding large craters and climbing through smaller ones, Ye said, with advanced navigation telecommunications systems to allow scientists to control the rover from Earth.
According to Asian Scientist Magazine, the rover, with a payload capacity of 44 lbs., will be equipped with eight instruments including a panoramic camera and lunar exploration radar. It will use automated navigation and will have the capacity to climb and avoid obstacles. The rover will transmit its data back to earth either by itself or through the lander.
After Chang?e-3, Chang?e-4 will be launched. Together, they will complete the task of landing on the Moon in the second phase of China?s lunar exploration program.
According to Xinhua News, Chang?e-5 will be launched in 2017 and its robot rover will send samples of moon rock from a depth of two meters back to Earth for analysis. A possible human landing on the Moon may be attempted sometime after 2020.Read More