China's Chang'e-8 Mission Will Try to Make Bricks on the Moon

Artist's impression of Chang'e-8. Credit: CNSA.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has put out a call for international and industry partners to contribute science payloads to its Chang’e-8 lunar lander, set for launch to the Moon in 2028. The mission, which will involve a lander, a rover, and a utility robot, will be China’s first attempt at in-situ resource utilization on the Moon, using lunar regolith to produce brick-like building materials.

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Gaia is so Accurate it Can Predict Microlensing Events

ESA/Gaia/DPAC; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO. Acknowledgement: A. Moitinho.

The ESA’s Gaia Observatory continues its astrometry mission, which consists of measuring the positions, distances, and motions of stars (and the positions of orbiting exoplanets) with unprecedented precision. Launched in 2013 and with a five-year nominal mission (2014-2019), the mission is expected to remain in operation until 2025. Once complete, the mission data will be used to create the most detailed 3D space catalog ever, totaling more than 1 billion astronomical objects – including stars, planets, comets, asteroids, and quasars.

Another benefit of this data, according to a team of researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is the ability to predict future microlensing events. Similar to gravitational lensing, this phenomenon occurs when light from background sources is deflected and amplified by foreground objects. Using information from Gaia‘s third data release (DR3), the team predicted 4500 microlensing events, 1664 of which are unlike any we have seen. These events will allow astronomers to conduct lucrative research into distant star systems, exoplanets, and other celestial objects.

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China Wants to Retrieve a Sample of Mars by 2028

This image was taken by a small camera that was jettisoned from China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft to photograph the spacecraft in orbit above the Martian north pole. Credit: CNSA/PEC

China continues to take great strides as part of its goal to become a superpower in space and a direct competitor with NASA. In addition to its proposed expansion of the Tiangong space station and the creation of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), China is also planning on sending crewed missions to Mars in the coming decade. In preparation for the arrival of taikonauts on the Red Planet, China is gearing up to return samples of Martian soil and rock to Earth roughly two years ahead of the proposed NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return (MSR).

This mission will be the third in the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Tianwen program (Tianwen-3) and will consist of a pair of launches in 2028 that will return samples to Earth in July 2031. According to a new study recently published in the journal Chinese Science Bulletin, Chinese scientists announced that they have developed a new numerical model to simulate the atmospheric environment of Mars. Known as the Global Open Planetary atmospheric model for Mars (aka. GoPlanet-Mars, or GoMars), this model offers research support in preparation for the Tianwen-3 mission.

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Chinese Scientists Complete a Concept Study for a 6-Meter Space Telescope to Find Habitable Exoplanets

Illustration of the proposed Tainlin Spacecraft. Credit: CNSA

We have discovered more than 5,400 planets in the universe. These worlds range from hot jovians that closely orbit their star to warm ocean worlds to cold gas giants. While we know they are there, we don’t know much about them. Characteristics such as mass and size are fairly straightforward to measure, but other properties such as temperature and atmospheric composition are more difficult. So the next generation of telescopes will try to capture that information, including one proposed telescope from the Chinese National Space Administration.

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China Finally Tells us What's Going on With its Mars Rover

A wireless camera took this 'group photo' of China's Tianwen-1 lander and rover on Mars' surface. Credit: Chinese Space Agency

The Zhurong Rover has sat unmoving and unresponsive on Mars since May 20th, 2022, when one of the planet’s infamous dust storms forced the science team to switch the rover to hibernation mode. It was expected to wake in late December, but has yet to show any signs of activity. Last week, the Rover’s chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao, offered an update on the rover’s status.

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What’s Next for China’s Lunar Exploration Plans?

China is starting to become a force in space exploration. Its main focal point of lunar exploration has started bearing fruit, with several successes, including a sample return mission and the first-ever craft to land on the far side. So what’s next for the Lunar Exploration Program? Establishing a research base may be on the cards, but the country doesn’t just plan to stop at the Moon – they are looking far beyond.

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China’s Zhurong Rover Looks Deep Underground and Sees Layers From Multiple Floods on Mars

Mars exploration has been ongoing for decades at this point, and some regions of the planet have become more interesting than others. Of particular interest is a basin known as Utopia Planitia. It was the site of the Viking-2 landing, one of the first-ever successful missions to Mars. From data collected during that mission, scientists developed a theory that the crater that formed Utopia might have been the site of an ancient ocean. New results from China’s Zhurong rover point to an even more exciting past – repeated flooding.

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New Pics of Phobos From China’s Tianwen-1 Orbiter

Two fundamental factors affect all astrophotography – timing and location. If a camera happens to be at the right place at the right time, it can capture images that have never been seen before. And with the proliferation of cameras throughout the solar system, more and more novel photos will be captured at an ever-increasing frequency. China’s Tianwen-1 probe added to that novel collection to celebrate its second anniversary by taking a shot of Mars’ moon Phobos.

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China has a new Human Lunar Space Program, With Plans for Landers, Orbiters, Rovers, and a Lunar Base

The China National Space Agency (CNSA) has advanced considerably since the turn of the century, boasting new launch vehicles, robotic missions to the Moon and Mars, and a modular space station in orbit (Tiangong). According to various sources, they plan to advance even further in the coming years and decades. Given the tight-lipped nature of the Chinese government and its agencies, much of what we periodically hear is based on snippets of information, gossip, and speculation.

However, in a recent interview with the state-owned CCTV new network, chief designer Huang Zhen confirmed that China’s space agency has established the Crewed Lunar Program Office. This program will consist of additional robotic missions to explore the Moon, followed by crewed missions and the creation of a base camp. Zhen also confirmed that he and his team at the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) are currently developing the key technologies that will make this happen.

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China is Building an Asteroid Deflection Mission of its own, due for Launch in 2025

Illustration of the DART spacecraft with the Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) extended. Credit: NASA

There’s an old joke that the dinosaurs are only extinct because they didn’t develop a space agency. The implication, of course, is that unlike our reptilian ancestors, we humans might be able to save ourselves from an impending asteroid strike on Earth, given our six-and-a-half decades of spaceflight experience. But the fact is that while we have achieved amazing things since Sputnik kicked off the space age in 1957, very little effort thus far has gone into developing asteroid deflection technologies. We are woefully inexperienced in this arena, and aside from our Hollywood dramatizations of it, we’ve never yet put our capabilities to the test. But that’s about to change.

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