The people's probe: China readies its most ambitious lunar mission

The people's probe: China readies its most ambitious lunar mission
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The next few months should see the launch of China’s next lunar mission known as Chang’e-3.

It is an attempt to land an unmanned Chinese space probe on a astronomical body for the first time.

As the probe will make a soft landing on the moon’s surface, scientists have ruled out the use of parachutes because of the moon’s vacuum.

Instead it will deploy an anti-thrust mechanism to reduce the speed of the engine.

Five landing sites have been shortlisted.

The Chinese rover has a payload of 20 kilos and will be equipped with eight instruments including a panoramic camera and a lunar exploration radar.

Chief designer Wu Weiren said: “The detector system was our main research and development project, with 80 percent of it involving new technologies and new methods, which meant it was tremendously difficult. We spent six years developing the five major systems with everything being prepared from the original plan.”

During the three month mission Chang’e-3 will transmit video in real time and analyse soil samples.

The probe will remain on the moon’s surface although the long-term plan is to follow it with landers that will return to Earth with samples.

China launched its first lunar mission in 2007 and the second in 2010.

The first retrieved lunar data and carried out an initial mapping of the moon’s surface while the second expanded on that with a high-resolution map.

China sent its first astronaut into space into 2003.

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