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Back to the Moon, 21st century style

 
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 01-12-2013 18:55    Post subject: Back to the Moon, 21st century style Reply with quote

China space: 'Jade Rabbit' lunar mission blasts off
By Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website

China has launched its first lunar rover mission, the next key step in the Asian superpower's ambitious space programme.
The Chang'e-3 mission blasted off from Xichang in the south at 01:30 Monday local time (17:30 GMT Sunday).
The Long March rocket's payload includes a landing module and a six-wheeled robotic rover called Yutu (or Jade Rabbit).
The mission should land in the Moon's northern hemisphere in mid-December.

Chinese state TV carried live pictures of the launch of the Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket carrying the lunar probe.
This will be the third rover mission to land on the lunar surface, but the Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

The 120kg (260lb) Jade Rabbit rover can climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200m (660ft) per hour, according to its designer the Shanghai Aerospace Systems Engineering Research Institute.
[Video: David Shukman visits an exhibition in Guiyang, southern China, that explores China's obsession with the Moon]

Its name - chosen in an online poll of 3.4 million voters - derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of the lunar goddess Chang'e.

Last week, Prof Ouyang Ziyuan told the BBC's science editor David Shukman that the mission would test key technology and carry out science, adding: "In terms of the talents, China needs its own intellectual team who can explore the whole lunar and solar system - that is also our main purpose."

The lander's target is Sinus Iridum (Latin for Bay of Rainbows) a flat volcanic plain thought to be relatively clear of large rocks. It is part of a larger feature known as Mare Imbrium that forms the right eye of the "Man in the Moon".

Other details of the mission are sketchy; the rover and lander are powered by solar panels but other sources suggest they also carry radioisotope heating units (RHUs) containing plutonium-238 to keep them warm during the cold lunar night.

The US Apollo astronauts Eugene Cernan and "Buzz" Aldrin have also remarked in a recent article that the landing module is substantially bigger than it needs to be to carry the rover, suggesting that it could be precursor technology to a human landing.

If successful, the mission, aimed at exploring the Moon's surface and looking for natural resources such as rare metals, will be a milestone in China's long-term space exploration programme, which includes establishing a permanent space station in Earth orbit.

Chang'e 3 is "the most complicated and difficult task yet in China's exploration of space" and incorporates lots of new technology, Xinhua reported Wu Zhijian, a spokesman with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, as saying.

But one unnamed US scientist recently told the magazine Aerospace America: "Except for a ground-penetrating radar on the rover, none of many science instruments on the lander/rover are expected to discover much new on the Moon."

The launch comes at a time when the Asian superpower is asserting itself in other areas, such as control of airspace over the East China Sea. China considers its space programme a symbol of its rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.

Future lunar launches planned by China include a mission to bring back samples of lunar soil to Earth. But officials have also stated an ambitious goal of sending humans to the Moon, in what could be the first manned lunar missions since the US Apollo programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prof Ouyang, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also highlighted the potential for exploiting the Moon's environment and natural resources. With only a very thin atmosphere, solar panels would operate far more efficiently, he believes, and a "belt" of them could "support the whole world".

He also pointed out the potential riches in terms of minerals and metals, which could eventually be mined. "The Moon is full of resources - mainly rare earth elements, titanium, and uranium, which the Earth is really short of, and these resources can be used without limitation."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25178299
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 14-12-2013 11:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

China's Jade Rabbit rover set for moon landing today
Heather Saul Saturday 14 December 2013

China is today preparing to land its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon, in the first soft landing of a rover in nearly four decades today, the latest step in the country's ambitious space programme.

The Chang'e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, is scheduled to touch down at 9.40pm local time (1.40pm GMT), state media has reported.

The lander carries the moon rover called Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” which was launched onboard the Chang'e 3 rocket on 1 December. After landing, the rover is slated to separate from the Chang'e and begin a three-month scientific exploration, looking for natural resources.

Its name was chosen in an online poll where 3.4 million people voted. The 120kg (260lb) rover can travel at 200m per hour and climb slopes at up to 20 degrees, according to media reports.

If the ambitious operation is successful, China will become the third nation to carry out a lunar soft landing after the United States and the former Soviet Union. The last one was in 1976.

A soft landing protects the craft and the equipment it carries from sustaining any damage. An earlier Chinese craft orbited and collected data before intentionally crash-landing on the moon.

The Chang'e mission blasted off from south-west China on 2 December on a Long March-3B carrier rocket.

China Central Television (CCT) will broadcast live footage of the landing and millions of people are expected to be watching the operation as it is carried out later today. CCT said the Chang'e will come to a stop from a speed of 1.7km (1.06 miles) per second during the sensitive landing process, which will last more than 10 minutes.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the United States to achieve manned space travel independently. China has already said its eventual goals are to have a space station and put an astronaut on the moon.

China's military-backed space programme has already made major breakthroughs in a relatively short time, although it lags far behind the United States and Russia in space technology and experience.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/chinas-jade-rabbit-rover-set-for-moon-landing-today-9004855.html
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PostPosted: 14-12-2013 15:55    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25356603
Quote:

China lands Jade Rabbit robot rover on Moon

By Paul Rincon Science editor, BBC News website
Moon The lander has touched down on a flat plain known as Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows


China says it has successfully landed a craft carrying a robotic rover on the surface of the Moon, a major step in its programme of space exploration.

On Saturday afternoon (GMT), a landing module underwent a powered descent, using thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years.

Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as "Jade Rabbit".

The touchdown took place on a flat plain called Sinus Iridum.

The mission launched on a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket on 1 December from Xichang in the country's south.

China's space mission team celebrate after the landing

The Chang'e-3 craft began its descent just after 1300 GMT (2100 Beijing time), with state television showing pictures of the moon's surface as the lander touched down.

Staff at mission control in Beijing were shown clapping and celebrating after confirmation came through. The official Xinhua news service reported that the spacecraft reached the surface at 1312 GMT after hovering above the surface for several minutes finding an appropriate place to land.

The probe's soft-landing was the most difficult task during the mission, Wu Weiren, the lunar programme's chief designer, told Xinhua.

It is the third robotic rover mission to land on the lunar surface, but the Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

China is saying: 'We are doing something that only two other countries have done before - the US and the Soviet Union”

"It's still a significant technological challenge to land on another world," said Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane's Space Systems and Industry told the AP news agency.

"You have to use rocket motors for the descent and you have to make sure you go down at the right angle and the right rate of descent and you don't end up in a crater on top of a large rock."

According to translated documents, the landing module was to actively reduce its speed at about 15km from the Moon's surface.

When it reached a distance of 100m from the surface, the craft fired thrusters to slow its descent.

At a distance of 4m, the lander switched off the thrusters and fell to the lunar surface.

The Jade Rabbit was expected to be deployed several hours after touchdown, driving down a ramp lowered by the landing module.
Infographic

Reports suggest the lander and rover will photograph each other at some point on Sunday.

According to Chinese space scientists, the mission is designed to test new technologies, gather scientific data and build intellectual expertise.

"China's lunar program is an important component of mankind's activities to explore [the] peaceful use of space," said Sun Huixian, a space engineer with the Chinese lunar programme.

The 120kg (260lb) Jade Rabbit rover can reportedly climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200m (660ft) per hour.


No humans have set foot on the lunar surface since America's Apollo missions ended in 1972

Its name - chosen in an online poll of 3.4 million voters - derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of the lunar goddess Chang'e.

The rover and lander are powered by solar panels but some sources suggest they also carry radioisotope heating units (RHUs), containing plutonium-238 to keep them warm during the cold lunar night.

Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington DC, said China's space programme was a good fit with China's concept of "comprehensive national power". This might be described as a measure of a state's all-round capabilities.

Space exploration was, he told BBC News, "a reflection of your economic power, because you need spare resources to have a space programme. It clearly has military implications because so much space technology is dual use".

He added: "It reflects your scientific and technological capabilities, it supports your diplomacy by making you appear strong.

"China is saying: 'We are doing something that only two other countries have done before - the US and the Soviet Union."

The Chang'e-3 mission launches from Xichang, south China

Mr Cheng explained that the mission would also advertise the country as a destination for commercial space launches, as well as providing an opportunity to test China's deep-space tracking and communications.

"The rover will reportedly be under Earth control at various points of its manoeuvres on the lunar surface," Mr Cheng wrote in a blog post.

"Such a space observation and tracking system has implications not only for space exploration but for national security, as it can be used to maintain space surveillance, keeping watch over Chinese and other nations' space assets."

China has been methodically and patiently building up the key elements needed for an advanced space programme - from launchers to manned missions in Earth orbit to unmanned planetary craft - and it is investing heavily.

Moon The Jade Rabbit, seen in this artist's impression, is the first wheeled vehicle on the Moon since the 1970s

"China wants to go to the Moon for geostrategic reasons and domestic legitimacy," Prof Joan Johnson-Freese, of the US Naval War College in Rhode Island, told the AFP news agency.

"With the US exploration moribund at best, that opens a window for China to be perceived as the global technology leader - though the US still has more, and more advanced, assets in space."

The lander's target is Sinus Iridum (Latin for Bay of Rainbows) a flat volcanic plain thought to be relatively clear of large rocks. It is part of a larger feature known as Mare Imbrium that forms the right eye of the "Man in the Moon".

After this, a mission to bring samples of lunar soil back to Earth is planned for 2017. And this may set the stage for further robotic missions, and - perhaps - a crewed lunar mission in the 2020s.

"[Chang'e-3] is probably laying some of the groundwork for a manned mission," said Mr Cheng.
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 14-12-2013 17:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

There'll be a conspiracy theory along in a minute, claiming that the landing was hoaxed! Wink
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ramonmercadoOffline
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PostPosted: 14-12-2013 19:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:
There'll be a conspiracy theory along in a minute, claiming that the landing was hoaxed! Wink


Those shadows aren't convincing and look at the landing: obviously a breeze blowing.
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 14-12-2013 21:56    Post subject: Reply with quote

China's Jade Rabbit rover rolls on to Moon's surface
By Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website

China's Jade Rabbit robot rover has driven off its landing module and on to the Moon's surface.
The robotic vehicle rolled down a ramp lowered by the lander and on to the volcanic plain known as Sinus Iridum.

Earlier on Saturday, the landing module containing the rover fired its thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976.
The touchdown in the Moon's northern hemisphere marks the latest step in China's ambitious space programme.
The lander will operate there for a year, while the rover is expected to work for some three months.

etc...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25384057
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PostPosted: 15-12-2013 02:14    Post subject: Reply with quote

One giant leap for Robotkind.
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rynner2Offline
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PostPosted: 17-12-2013 10:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Remarkable' rocks within reach of Jade Rabbit rover

Some of the youngest lava flows on the Moon are within reach of China's Jade Rabbit rover, says a leading US lunar scientist.
The Chang'e-3 mission touched down on Saturday at the eastern edge of its designated landing box.
Dr Paul Spudis said the landing area was more interesting than its original destination and could fill in gaps in our knowledge of lunar history.

Meanwhile, officials have said that the rover's instruments are now working.
Five of the eight pieces of scientific equipment on Chang'e-3 had begun their observations, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
The telescopes and cameras are producing clear images, Zou Yongliao, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference.
The lander and rover photographed each other on Sunday evening.

The Chinese craft performed the first "soft" landing (non-crash landing) on the Moon since 1976. And Jade Rabbit, or Yutu, is the first rover mission since the Soviet Union's Lunokhod-2 trundled through the grey soil 40 years ago.

A touch down had been planned in the Moon's Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows). But the spacecraft actually landed on the northern edge of Mare Imbrium (the Sea of Rains) - visible on Earth as the right eye of the "Man in the Moon".

In a blog entry for the Smithsonian's Air and Space magazine, Dr Spudis, from the Lunar and Planetary Insitute in Houston, said: "Whether by design or fortuitous accident, this site is actually more interesting geologically than the spacecraft's original destination."
Chang'e 3 landed at the extreme northern end of a sequence of lava flows, which are estimated - by counting the number of impact craters on them - to be very young in lunar terms.

Dr Spudis said two major terrain types dominated lunar geology: the bright rugged highlands dating from the Moon's formation 4.5 billion years ago, and the younger "maria", dark volcanic plains made up of iron-rich lava flows.
The lavas began to erupt around 3.9 billion years ago, but it is unclear when this volcanic activity ended. The Mare Imbrium lavas appear to be between one and 2.5 billion years old, making them much younger than any of the rock samples returned from the Moon thus far.

Dr Spudis said the Imbrium lavas were "not only remarkable for their physical properties but are also compositionally interesting".
"Because the rover will examine several different individual areas during its traverse, we will obtain new "ground truth" data to better understand the meaning of data obtained remotely from orbit," he explained.
"At a minimum, Yutu will examine the composition of the surface lava flow."

Data gathered from orbit show the lavas to be high in the metal titanium. Volcanic flows to the north of the landing site seem to have a lower titanium content and appear to underlie the ones that Chang'e-3 sits on.
But some of these underlying rocks may have been excavated by impacts, allowing Jade Rabbit to look for them among the debris around craters.

"With data from the rover, we might be able to reconstruct the volcanic stratigraphy of this region of the Moon," said Dr Spudis.
"The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover can provide many answers to our questions regarding the geological history of this region of the Moon and about lunar history in general."

China said it would launch Chang'e-5, a mission to return samples of rock and soil from the Moon, in 2017.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25402455
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PostPosted: 20-03-2014 08:17    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Shrapnel' risk to future Moon surface missions
By Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website, The Woodlands, Texas

The "shrapnel" generated by small space rocks that periodically hit the Moon may pose a larger risk to lunar missions than was previously believed.
A number of countries and private consortia have stated their plans to send robotic and crewed missions to the lunar surface in the coming decades.

A relatively small impact on the Moon last year hurled hundreds of pieces of rocky debris out of the crater.
Many were travelling at the speed of a shotgun blast.
The meteoroid strike sprayed small rocks up to 30km from the initial impact site, said Professor Mark Robinson, from Arizona State University.
He presented his analysis at the 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

Along with colleagues, he used the LROC imaging instrument aboard Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft to follow up on observations from 17 March 2013 of an apparent collision on the Moon's surface.
The orbiter took pictures of the area that corresponded to co-ordinates for the impact flash.
Prof Robinson and his team found a fresh 18m-wide crater, punched by a 0.3-1.3m-wide space rock. The crater is surrounded by typical "ejecta" deposits - the continuous blanket of rock and soil heaved out when the meteoroid thumped into the lunar surface.

However, they also saw 248 small "splotches" extending up to 30km from the primary crater. This was further than the typical extent for continuous ejecta deposits from a lunar crater.
Prof Robinson interprets these surface splotches as relatively low velocity, secondary impacts into the lunar soil by material flung out in different directions by the primary impact. Using the known facts of the impact, the researchers were able to calculate the energy needed to create the splotches.

"Since they're spread out at great distances, we really need to start thinking that 'secondaries' from small craters pose possibly a larger risk to future long-lived surface assets than the actual primary craters themselves," he told an audience at the LPSC.
"Even though 100m/s is low-velocity, you would certainly not want to be hit with material coming in at 100m/s. That's about the velocity of a shotgun blast."
He said that the LROC team had discovered hundreds of similar splotches around other lunar craters - and that some of these were "directional".

Most of the 33 tonnes of rock that hits the Earth every day burns up high in the atmosphere, never making it to the ground. However, the Moon has only the thinnest of atmospheres, so there's nothing to stop meteoroids from hitting the surface.

There are uncertainties over the rates at which meteoroids of different sizes hit the Moon, but the Lunar Impact Monitoring Program has recorded more than 300 flashes - including this one - since 2005.

The lunar surface remains a high-priority target for exploration by the space agencies of several countries, including not just the US, but China and India. So a better understanding of the risks posed by the lunar environment could be crucial to the success of those missions.

In late 2013, China landed its first robotic rover - Yutu - on the Moon. Not long after landing, the robot suffered a failure, the exact nature of which has not been fully elucidated by the Chinese authorities.

China has also stated its aim of mounting the first human missions to the Moon since the US Apollo programme - something scientists think the country could achieve by the 2020s.

Prof Robinson said the team would soon begin analysing images from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of the area on the Moon where a record-breaking impact flash was observed by Spanish astronomers in September last year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26637231
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