Lunar probe to land on moon

Updated: 2013-03-04 07:48

(China Daily)

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China will send a lunar probe to the surface of the moon in the second half of this year to achieve its first moon landing, China's top lunar exploration expert said on Sunday.

Chang'e-3, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, will be the country's third probe sent to the moon, but the first to actually reach the surface. It will be the country's first spacecraft to soft-land on a celestial body other than Earth, said Ye Peijian, consultant to the chief designer of Chang'e-3 and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"The lunar probe is now undergoing the final testing before being transported to the launch site. Everything is going well," said Ye, who is also chief scientist in deep-space exploration with China Academy of Space Technology, which is affiliated with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

Since there are only two launch windows in the second half of this year for sending the exploratory lunar probe into space, the team cannot afford for anything to go wrong, he said.

The probe, which includes a lander and a rover, has a complicated combination of tasks, including the probe soft-landing on the moon, the rover detaching from the lander and walking on the moon surface, surveying and exploring the lunar surface, transmitting data back to Earth.

"But simply put, if we can have the lander successfully soft-land on the moon and have the rover walk on the moon, this project can be called successful," he said.

The probe is scheduled to land on a plain called Sinus Iridum ("Bay of Rainbows"). Ye said there are four backup landing sites.

Preparation is also under way for the third stage of China's lunar exploration program, which includes the return of a lunar soil sample.

The Chang'e-5's mission involves an unattended launch from the lunar surface and spacecraft docking in lunar orbit. To make sure it's successful, the country plans to first launch an experimental vehicle to test the technologies, Ye said.

-Xin Dingding

(China Daily 03/04/2013 page5)