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by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Oct 25, 2013
In December 2013, China will launch its first mission to soft-land on the surface of the Moon. The Chang'e-3 spacecraft will carry a robotic rover to the surface of the Moon, and also perform experiments stationed on the lander itself. This is gearing up to be an scientifically important mission. Nothing has landed softly on the Moon since 1976. It's about time that was changed.
The international space community is eagerly anticipating this mission, and it's hard to find negative comments about it. It was thus strange for this analyst to see criticism of the rover by a Chinese scientist in the "South China Morning Post", a prominent Hong Kong newspaper.
The scientist in question expresses concerns over the design of the rover, claiming it borrows too heavily from earlier space rovers such as NASA's famous Mars Exploration Rovers and the Soviet Lunokhod Moon rovers.
This Australian analyst cannot deny that there are similarities. But what should we expect? The design of the Chinese rover demonstrates sensible engineering at work. If it looks like other things that work well, it should come as no surprise.
Most cars look the same in terms of their basic design. So do many other products. There are good reasons for this. Sure, it's nice to be innovative, but sometimes it's counter-productive.
Engineers are conservative by nature. If something isn't broken, why fix it? Humanity has centuries of experience with wheeled vehicles, and we know what works.
The Chinese Moon rover must function in a hostile environment. It makes sense to use a design that is known to be reliable in such conditions.
Perhaps certain groups are upset that their own ideas were not selected for the mission. Again, this is normal for any space project. Not everyone gets to participate.
Whatever the reasons for the criticism, let's acknowledge that China is about to deploy a fine piece of engineering onto the Moon. The design of the rover should be celebrated rather than denounced.
Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for spacedaily.com since 1999. Email morrisjonesNOSPAMhotmail.com. Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.
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