China Looking Towards Manned Lunar Landing

by Nancy Atkinson on May 28, 2009

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Artist concept of a Chinese lunar mission. Credit: Xinhua

Artist concept of a Chinese lunar mission. Credit: Xinhua


A Chinese space scientist said that his country is considering the feasibility of a manned lunar landing mission sometime between 2025 and 2030. China is also planning a sample return mission to the Moon by 2017, said Ye Peijian, chief designer of the China’s Chang’e Project. “Through the development of lunar probes, we have made constant progress of the ability to explore the outer space,” Ye was quoted as saying by the China News Service.

Chang’e -1 launched successfully in 2007 and orbited the Moon for 16 months before conducting a controlled impact on the Moon’s surface earlier this year. The satellite mapped and created three-dimensional images of the lunar surface. Several performance tests were carried out while Chang’e-1 was in orbit to give engineers experience in orbit adjustment, and to test the spacecraft’s capability.

According to Ye, China will launch the second lunar probe Chang’e-2 in 2010 which will conduct research at a 100-kilometer-high moon orbit as the preparation for a soft landing by using variable thrusters with the Chang’e-3, which will include a lunar rover, currently in development.

The rover will work on the moon’s surface for three months, Ye said, adding scientists have decided to adopt isotope generator to provide energy for the rover when it is in lunar nights when temperatures drop to 200 Celsius degrees below zero.

The sample return mission will be able to gather two kilograms of lunar samples and launch a return capsule from the Moon back to Earth.

All of these incremental steps would lead to a human mission to the moon, likely to be similar to NASA’s Apollo missions. During the timeframe China is hoping to bring humans to the moon, the US is also hoping to return to the lunar surface with long duration missions with the new Constellation program.

Source: People’s Daily Online

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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