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Beijing (XNA) Dec 16, 2013
China's first moon rover and lander took photos of each other on the moon's surface Sunday night, a move that marks a complete success of the country's Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission.
Ma Xingrui, chief commander of China's lunar program, announced that Chang'e-3 mission was a "complete success", after the two successfully took pictures for each other.
The one-minute photographing came a day after the country completed its first lunar soft landing, the world's first of the kind in nearly four decades. The last soft landing was carried out by the Soviet Union in 1976.
At about 11:42 p.m. Beijing Time, the six-wheeled Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, moved to a spot about 9 meters north to the lander and the photographing began.
The color images, live transmitted via a deep space network designed by China, showed the Chinese national flag on Yutu. It marked the first time that the five-star red flag had pictures taken in an extraterrestrial body.
As a photo appeared on a big monitoring screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), senior state leaders and dozens of center staff clapped hands in cheers.
Yutu will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year.
The 140-kg rover separated from the lander and touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m. Sunday, several hours after Chang'e-3 lunar probe soft-landed on the moon's surface at 9:11 p.m. on Saturday.
Chang'e-3 landed on the moon's Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the United States and Soviet Union.
In ancient Chinese mythology, Yutu was the white pet rabbit of the lunar goddess Chang'e. The name for the rover was selected following an online poll that collected several million votes from people around the world.
The rover, 1.5 meters long with its two wings folded, 1 m in width and 1.1 m in height, is a highly efficient robot controlled by the command center from the earth. It will face challenges including temperature differences of more than 300 degrees Celsius on the moon.
Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.
China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe amazes world
Since the successful launching of Chang'e-3 mission early December, the Chang'e-3 lunar exploration program has been put in the spotlight. Now as Jade Rabbit has made its touchdown on the moon surface, the whole world again marvels at China's remarkable space capabilities and even extends their aspiration for space cooperation with China.
"It (Developing space programs) is also a way to mobilize resources and to concentrate resources in a way that could result in certain types of spinoff technologies," said Mark Stokes, the executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a research organization in Washington focused on security issues in Asia.
Above all, China has been learning how to orchestrate complicated engineering tasks, said Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington who has studied China's space programs.
"We in the U.S., in the West, tend to focus on the widget aspect of China's space progress," Cheng said. "But I would say what we sometimes miss is the Chinese space efforts aimed at improving their systems engineering."
As well as patriotic pride, China's space activities are generating skills to enhance the country's science, satellites and military, the New York Times quoted experts as saying. "China's advances in space include five manned flights, which are intended to pave the way for a space station."
"The Chang'e-3 details tell me that the U.S. now absolutely must start communicating with the Chinese about lunar cooperation," said U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11, in an interview with the magazine Aerospace America. "The U.S. knows more about the Moon than anyone else, and we know more about bringing together foreign partners, as we did for the International Space Station," he added.
The lander spacecraft is more than 40 percent the size of a NASA Apollo lunar module at descent stage, and the Chinese are building them on an assembly line basis, the magazine reported.
"The Chinese will be the next on the Moon, and they are going to be there for a long time, with significant staying power," said Eugene Cernan, a U.S. astronaut of Apollo 17. He and Aldrin believed Chinese manned lunar landings will be possible on larger versions of the Chang'e-3 design within 10 years.
Germany's Frankfurter Zeitung on Dec. 2 acclaimed the Chang'e-3 lunar probe as "the first successful attempt of an Asian power in the history of space travel."
"So far there have been only two countries that made it to the Moon: the United States and the Soviet Union."
"China has made rapid progress in space travel. It develops much faster than the previous world powers in space exploration projects as well as many other fields. Ten years ago, China sent its first astronaut into space, but now it is already on the way to building a space station," it added.
Cornelia von Ammon, Germany's spokesperson of the federation of aerospace industry, said the German federation pays close attention to the Chinese lunar mission. The success provides further insights into lunar exploration and impetus for further research approaches.
"An air show is scheduled to take place in Berlin in May 2014 and we are looking forward to China's participation in the show with great interest."
Igor Lisov, an expert at Russia's Novosti Kosmonavtiki Monthly, pointed out the previous Soviet Moon program was successful as a whole but at tremendous costs. The Soviet Union launched 24 missions to the Moon, but the first five all turned out to be failures; its space efforts only started to pay off from its sixth attempt, which was the landing of the lunar rover Lonokhod.
"Besides, in the 1970s the crew were well trained to operate the Lunoklod on the Moon surface remotely from the Earth, whereas China's Yutu is equipped with a GPS system that allows much improved orbit insertion accuracy and prevents it from colliding with other objects. That is the biggest difference between Yutu and Lunoklod."
Russian astronaut Vladimir Kovalenok said, "It is a landmark flight." The Chinese lunar program is advancing on the right track, and China can and will go down this right path on its own while taking into pros and cons of lunar programs in the United States and the Soviet Union, he said.
"China is now a pioneer in this field, and its lunar missions will be a catalyst for lunar explorations in other countries as the Moon can serve as a basis for a 'jump' on journeys to more distant space in the universe," he added.
Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun said lunar probe is of great importance to other space exploration programs including the exploration of Mars. With the Chang'e-3 mission smoothly completed, China will be able to make more voices heard in the future Moon exploration and development.
Segawa Shiro, a professor at the faculty of political science and economics of Waseda University in Japan, told Xinhua that science and technologies have made huge progress since moon landing in the 20th century, and therefore Chang'e and Yutu will undoubtedly adopt cutting-edge automatic sensors technology. To soft land on the Moon using latest technologies can help people appreciate the wisdom of science and give people inspiration.
He also believes it is particularly significant because the mission provides an opportunity to share mankind's knowledge about space inspection and exploration. Japan's lunar probe is also under way and international space cooperation is much needed.
Finland's largest news daily Helsingin Sanomat said the conquest of space is a source of pride for China and its ordinary citizens.
"The Moon is a suitable target for China to carry out space exploration, because it is close to us and technologies developed for the Moon landing can also be later applied to further exploration, such as the conquest of Mars."
Source: Xinhua News Agency
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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