Chang’e-3: China To Launch First Moon Rover In 2013
China’s next spacecraft to the moon, Chang’e-3, which is provisionally slated for launch in 2013, will execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.
AsianScientist (Mar. 7, 2012) – China’s next spacecraft to the moon, Chang’e-3, which is provisionally slated for launch in 2013, will execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.
Announcing this on Friday, Ye Peijian, chief scientist of deep space exploration at the China Academy of Space Technology, said that the launch will be from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
Emphasizing that the program was on track, he said that the spacecraft had entered the critical phase of prototype development consisting of wheels and legs, and was also a brand new one for China. “So the technology is difficult to master,” he has been quoted as saying in the People’s Daily.
According to Ye, since the probe will make a soft landing on the moon’s surface, the use of parachutes has been ruled out due to the moon’s vacuum. Instead, it will employ an anti-thrust mechanism to reduce the speed of the engine.
Five landing sites have been shortlisted with the first choice going to a flat, well-lit, and easily observable region known as Sinus Iridium.
He said that the lander weighing 100 kg will have seven instruments and cameras. In addition to their scientific roles, the cameras will also take pictures of earth and other celestial bodies. The lander will have the capacity to operate for three consecutive months.
The rover, with a payload capacity of 20 kg, will be equipped with eight instruments including a panoramic camera and a lunar exploration radar. It will use automated navigation and will have the capacity to climb and avoid obstacles. It will also have the capacity for what is known as “turning route selection,” says the People’s Daily.
The rover will transmit data back to earth by itself or through the lander.
The firm announcement about the launch of Chang’e-3 comes at a time when there is a degree of uncertainty regarding the launch of India’s second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, which was also slated for next year.
Chandrayaan-2 consists of an India-made rocket, orbiter, and rover, while the lander is from Russia. The uncertainty about the launch schedule is because of the Russian lander. Russia has stated that because of the failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission which was testing the lunar lander, production of the lander for Chandrayaan-2 will be delayed.
If the flight had been on schedule, 2013 which marks the 50th anniversary of the Indian space program, would have witnessed a race to the moon between the two Asian space powers – India and China.
It may recalled that at the 17th National Space Science Symposium which was held at Tirupati last month, former chairman of ISRO, U. R. Rao, was all praise for the Chinese space program. He said that it was well defined and had a clear road map.
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 will send back samples of moon rock to earth for analysis from a depth of two meters.
China’s first mission to the moon, Chang’e-1, was launched on October 24, 2007 and the second one on October 1, 2010. A recent white paper relating to the Chinese space program stated that the final aim of the lunar exploration program was a possible human landing on the moon sometime after 2020.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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