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November 17, 2009

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Third lunar lander all set for soft touchdown

CHINA'S top aerospace authorities have approved a preliminary design for the country's third lunar lander, paving way for its expected launch in about 2013.

Designers of Chang'e 3 had worked out a breakthrough on soft landings, a key part for China's second step in its lunar program that aimed to bring back samples from the moon in about 2017, China News Service reported yesterday.

The lander is expected touch down on the moon's equator and deploy a lunar rover that can cruise for 90 days, according to Ye Peijian, chief designer of the project.

The rover would fetch surface samples within 5 square kilometers of its landing spot and send data back to Earth, said Ye.

He said the functional prototype of the rover had been tested in simulated conditions and completed the mission.

The rover will be remotely controlled from Earth on its six-wheeled arm-swing walking system.

Chang'e 2 is due to be launched at the latest in 2011 to test key technologies of soft landing to lower technical risks for its successor, Ye said.

Chang'e 3 will be launched at China's new low-latitude launch site in the southern province of Hainan, expected to be completed before 2013.


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