July 30, 2012
Lunar Mission Expected Next Year For China
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
China is growing up its space industry quickly, as the country's state-run media outlets announced today that the country is setting its eyes on the Moon again by next year.
China News Service said the Chang'e 3 mission would be launching in 2013, helping to carry out surveys on the surface of the moon.
Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar exploration program, said that the Chang'e 3 mission includes a lander and rover that will carry out exploration activities for the first time in world history.
The rover will also be carrying a nuclear-powered battery that will help it last throughout the cold lunar nights. China media reported that this battery could last for up to 30 years. During the night time, the rover will go into "hibernating," but when the sun rises the solar energy will "wake" the lander and the rover.
The country launched its first moon orbiter, the Chang'e 1, back in 2007, which took images of the surface and analyzed the distribution of elements.
Xinhua news agency reported that Chang'e 3 will hover about 13 feet above the lunar surface, then the engine will cut out, and it will drop to the surface.
The lunar rover will carry a "radar" with it, and while its operating it can scan several hundred feet under the surface, according to Xinhua.
China's space agency has kept busy in the last decade, including laying the groundwork for the country's very own space station.
Xinhua reported on Sunday that a next-generation engine with a 120-ton-thrust using liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene was successfully tested.
This engine will enable the Long March 5 carrier rocket to place a 25-ton payload into near-Earth orbit, or place a 14-ton payload in geostationary orbit.
Sunday's tests included seeing how the engine would respond to rotational speeds of nearly 20,000 revolutions per minute, and temperatures of 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit.
Luan Xiting, deputy head of the institute, told Xinhua that the new engine's thrust will enable the country to assemble the space station, and would also help the third stage of the lunar exploration program, which includes Chang'e 5. This phase of the lunar explorer program will see that Change'5 returns about 5 pounds of soil back to the Earth.