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November 2, 2013

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

City-made lunar rover set for moon

A Shanghai-made lunar rover is all set to land on the moon with the Chang’e-3, China’s third lunar probe that is set to be launched next month, local officials said yesterday.

The moon rover has been taken to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center with the Chang’e lunar probe on the Long March III carrier rocket. Inspections and preparatory work are going on to get the launch ready about a month later.

Equipped with four cameras, the six-wheeled rover will be able to climb onto hills and cross over obstacles on the moon surface, said Xiao Jie, a designer for the rover with the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

Two mechanical legs can dig and take earth samples from the moon. It also has an expandable solar power plate to absorb the sun’s energy during the day and retract at night to cover the equipment to protect it from temperatures of minus 170 degrees Celsius.

“It will move really slowly,” Xiao said. The rover will plan its route only after observing and detecting the surrounding environment, he said.

The rover will patrol the surface for at least three months with the 100-kilogram vehicle being controlled by scientists on Earth, said Ye Peijian, chief commander of the Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 missions, calling it as “the most difficult part of the mission.”

A Chinese-made nuclear battery will power the moon rover after it lands on the lunar surface.

The battery, using plutonium-238, will be able to power the vehicle for more than 30 years, according to Ouyang Ziyuan, the project’s chief scientist.

China has launched two lunar probes with Chang’e-1 on October 24, 2007, and Chang’e-2 on October 1, 2010.

The country will launch its fifth lunar probe, the Chang’e-5, in 2017 to bring back samples from the surface of the moon in the final step of the its unmanned lunar project, Ouyang said.

He said there is still no timetable for putting a man on the moon, but China has said it would happen shortly after the completion of the “three-step” unmanned lunar project, according to a white paper on the development of the country’s space industry.



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