Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

China Sends Life to Moon
by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Sep 05, 2014

illustration only

Later this year, China will launch a spacecraft to the Moon and back. A scale replica of the Shenzhou astronaut capsule will be carried atop a boxy spacecraft based on the Chang'e lunar orbiter, and launched by a Long March 3C rocket.

The mission was originally expected to simply fly around the Moon on a "free-return" trajectory, but recent reports in China's state-run media claim that the spacecraft will actually enter orbit around the Moon. Then the spacecraft will fly back to Earth, and the Shenzhou replica capsule will make a soft landing in China.

The mission seems to have two purposes. China claims that the flight is a test of the capsule to be used on a future robotic sample-return mission to the Moon. This is widely understood and believed. A more controversial idea, not officially stated by China, is that the mission is linked to future plans for launching Chinese astronauts to the Moon. Why else is a replica of their own astronaut capsule being used for the flight?

The mission is thus mostly about performing engineering tests. Returning from the Moon is more difficult than returning from Earth orbit. Apart from the need for precise navigation, the re-entry is much faster, and places more demands on a spacecraft's heatshield. China has mastered re-entry from orbit for decades, but has yet to recover anything from deep space.

While there's a lot of interest in the simple act of flying to the Moon and back, other questions are being raised about what will lurk inside the capsule. So far, China has offered few clues.

This analyst previously estimated that the re-entry capsule is around 1.5 metres across at its base. It isn't clear how much internal volume the capsule has, but it obviously can't accommodate a lot of gear. Nevertheless, there's enough room for some productive experiments.

This analyst expects that much of what lies inside will be focused on the effects of radiation in deep space. This could be a hazard to equipment and personnel on future missions. Thus, we can expect that radiation detectors will be placed inside the capsule.

This will explore the higher radiation levels found at lunar distances and also allow the radiation shielding properties of the capsule to be tested. Some detectors could be located outside on the main spacecraft "bus" to provide a comparison.

There will also be biological samples. China has been launching plant seeds into space for a long time. They are easy to store, take up little space, and can be studied simply by seeing how they germinate after their return. We can safely bet that seeds will be carried on this mission.

There could also be micro-organisms stored in small vials. Cell tissue from more complex animals could also be carried. Perhaps there will even be small insects such as fruit flies. But we can rule out any complex animal life, which requires large and complex life-support systems. The goal will be to fly items that are small and easy to store.

The recent problems experienced by the ill-fated Russian Foton M4 recoverable capsule illustrate how a complex biological package can go wrong. The fruit flies on this mission survived. The geckos did not.

We can probably rule out any centrifuges being included. They are fairly bulky and complex. There are already enough new complexities on this mission, and biological science is really a secondary goal.

China will also probably fly small flags for mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. These will eventually turn up in museum exhibits.

This mission could easily blast off within a matter of weeks. China has stated that the mission will fly before the end of the year. They will not want to wait for winter to strike with full force, which could complicate the launch and the recovery of the spacecraft. So a launch before mid-November seems certain.

The countdown is on, but China still hasn't said a lot about the mission. This analyst expected more details to emerge by now. Perhaps the slightly covert agendas of this flight, which supports plans for human lunar flight, is producing a tighter veil of secrecy.

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for since 1999. Email Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.


Related Links
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Same-beam VLBI Tech monitors Chang'E-3 movement on moon
Shanghai, China (SPX) Aug 27, 2014
By using the same-beam VLBI technology, differential phase delay successfully monitored the lunar rover's movement during the Chang'E-3 mission when rover and lander was carrying out the tasks of separation and took photos of each other. The sensitivity of rover motion monitoring was between 50-100mm.Furthermore, relative position between rover and lander was precisely measured by taking t ... read more

Year's final supermoon is a Harvest Moon

China Aims for the Moon, Plans to Bring Back Lunar Soil

Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil

China to test recoverable moon orbiter

MAVEN Spacecraft Makes Final Preparations For Mars

Robots do battle over Mars exploration

Opportunity Flash-Memory Reformat Planned

Memory Reformat Planned for Opportunity Mars Rover

More Than Meets the Eye: NASA Scientists Listen to Data

Aurora Season Has Started

Russian, US Scientists to Prepare Astronauts for Extreme Situations in Space

Russia's Space Geckos Die Due to Technical Glitch Two Days Before Landing

China launches remote sensing satellite

China launches two satellites via one rocket

China Sends Life to Moon

Same-beam VLBI Tech monitors Chang'E-3 movement on moon

International Space Station accidentally launches satellites on its own

Geopolitical Tensions Not to Affect ISS Cooperation

Station Trio Preps for Departure as Expedition 40 Nears End

Expedition 40 Heads Into Final Week on ISS

SpaceX launches AsiaSat 6 satellite

SpaceX launches second satellite in the past month

Sea Launch Takes Proactive Steps to Address Manifest Gap

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

How NASA's New Carbon Observatory Will Help Us Understand Alien Worlds

Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation

Rotation of Planets Influences Habitability

Planet-like object may have spent its youth as hot as a star

Robotic Satellite-Servicing Capabilities in Geostationary Earth Orbit

Officials expand space-tracking website

Russia Considers Meteor Impact Prevention Project

Singapore launches world's first ZigBee inter-satellite comms system

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.