AsianScientist (Mar. 21, 2012) – The third phase of China’s unmanned moon mission promises to be a challenging one – it envisages returning two kilograms of lunar soil samples to earth for analysis.
Though the chief designer of the program, Hu Hao, was reluctant to be drawn into any discussion regarding the exact launch date, saying that a lot of critical technologies have yet to be tested, speculation is rife that it could take place around 2017-2018.
Despite the uncertainty of the launch date, Hu has been quoted in the People’s Daily on Friday as saying that engineers are expected to lay the groundwork for the important lunar mission this year.
He said that the mission will involve what he called a “relay” approach focusing on precision rendezvous and docking.
The provisional mission sequence stipulates that after launch, a four-module spacecraft will enter the lunar orbit. Thereafter, two modules will touch down on the moon’s surface. One of the modules will collect the soil samples and transfer them to the ascending module which will lift off from the lunar surface.
After taking off from the moon, it will dock with the orbiting module. Once this process is completed, the lunar samples will be transferred to another module which will bring it back to earth.
Though Chinese space scientists are upbeat about this mission, Hu said that several key technologies have to be tested and perfected like the launch of the ascending module from the moon’s surface and the collection of soil samples.
Collecting samples on the moon has proved to be a challenging task and what better proof of this than the fact Russia during its three unmanned missions managed to collect a mere 300 grams of lunar soil.
NASA’s six manned missions to the moon between 1969 and 1972 brought back a total of 3,817 kg of rocks and other material from the moon and distributed them to laboratories all over the world, including India.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.