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Innovations in China’s Lunar Exploration Technology

Dec 18, 2013     Email"> PrintText Size

Over 40 years ago, a US lunar probe first landed on moon. Doubts have been expressed that China’s lunar exploration is doing no more than following suit.

China's lunar probe Chang'e-3, with the country's first moon rover onboard, landed on the moon, marking the first time that China has sent a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

Ouyang Ziyuan, academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the first chief scientist of the Chang’e project, says that our lunar exploration is not a simple repetition, but a test of new space technology.

He explains that the exploration conducted by the US and other countries has mainly been centered on the equator area, and seldom in the high latitude areas. Chang’e-3 has been directed to the Sinus Iridum, which has never before been explored - a blank page in lunar research. In addition, we will carry out research that has not been done before, such as measuring the thickness of the surface layer of soil on the moon with instruments far more sensitive than those that were available in the 1970s.

According to Lin Yangting, researcher of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Science, China’s deep space exploration program has developed from a zero base, and will therefore take time to mature. In fact, Chang’e 1, 2 and 3 will incorporate many innovations, including those in the lunar probe such as the moon radar carried by Yutu rover, the extreme ultraviolet camera equipped in the lander, and the astronomical telescope based on the moon, all of which are world firsts. So we can expect great results in science and technology in the near future.

Yang Yuguang, researcher of the Second Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation, said: “It is wrong to suggest that China’s lunar exploration technology is no more than imitation. For example, the US and other countries adopted a simple technique for their first soft landing on the moon: the moon probe enters the lunar trajectory, and where the trajectory meets the moon’s surface, the intersection point is the landing point. Applying reverse-thrust to the engine brings the probe down onto the surface. While straightforward, this is very resource-consuming. Our approach has been to circle the moon and then choose a spot to land. We will therefore have a wide range of choices. Finding a perfect landing spot is crucial, because the lunar probe is unmanned and the time at our disposal is very limited. So we employ advanced technology and instruments such as laser, microwave, and gamma shutdown sensors. Generally speaking, our lunar exploration techniques are both economical and reliable. (People's Daily Online)

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