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Raumfahrt - China´s Change3-Mond-Rover Mission Teil-1

 

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5.05.2013

The proposed Chang’e 3 rover, scheduled for launch in December 2013.

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Currently scheduled for launch in December 2013 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, the Chang’e 3 mission aims to land a Chinese rover on the Moon. If the mission is successful, it will be the first soft landing on the Moon since the Russian Luna 24 mission in 1976. Overseen by the China National Space Administration, the Chang’e program is following a step-wise approach to lunar exploration that could lead to the first taikonaut stepping onto the Moon by 2025.

The previous Chang’e 1 and 2 lunar orbiting missions, launched in 2007 and 2010, represented the first phase of the Chang’e program. Chang’e 3, to be followed by Chang’e 4, represent the second phase of the program, both involving rovers. The third phase, with Chang’e 5, will be a sample-return mission and is currently scheduled for 2017. After that, it is anticipated that a new program will commence, which might culminate in a manned landing.

Chang’e is the name of a Chinese goddess who ascended to the Moon after consuming an immortality pill and there befriended a jade rabbit who was already a lunar resident. The elements of this legend were relayed by NASA to the Apollo 11 crew ahead of the first Moon landing in 1969. Michael Collins famously responded “Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”

The Chang’e 3 lander will set down in Sinus Iridum, which is an extension of Mare Ibrium and roughly opposite the Apollo 15 landing site near Hadley Rille.

After landing, a solar-powered rover will roll off the lander and commence its mission, which is expected to last for at least three months, although presumably that will include a lot of down-time while the two-week-long lunar nights prevail.

The Chang’e 3 lander itself will continue to operate as a stationary science platform. It will be powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator and hence will be largely unaffected by the presence or absence of direct sunlight. The lander will operate a number of science instruments, including an optical telescope and a “soil probe” to conduct analyses of lunar regolith.

The Chang’e 3 rover will have a mass of 120 kilograms, including a 20 kg science payload. It is reported that it will explore widely over an area within a 5 kilometer radius of the lander. This sounds a little ambitious considering that the Spirit and Opportunity rovers traveled just 2 to 3 kilometers over their first year of operation, but the Chang’e 3 rover will have more advanced technology and more solar energy to draw upon.

The rover will also have autonomous hazard avoidance and navigation capacity, but with a radio delay of only 1.3 seconds from Earth, it will be mostly under the direct control of an Earth-based driver.

The rover’s science payload will include an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, which has been standard issue on all the NASA Mars rovers to date, to enable geochemical analyses. The rover will also have a radar device on its underside, to investigate the structure and depth of the lunar regolith as well as the underlying structure of the lunar crust.

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Quelle: AS

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Update: 25.09.2013

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China unveils its first and unnamed moon rover
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BEIJING, Chinese scientists described the country's first moon rover on Wednesday and invited the global public to come up with a name for it.
Zhao Xiaojin, director of the aerospace department of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, depicted the lunar rover an orbiter adaptable to harsh environments; a highly efficient and integrated robot; and a high altitude "patrolman" carrying the dreams of Asia.
The Chang'e-3 mission to moon, named after a Chinese lunar goddess, will take place in December, when a Chinese spacecraft will soft-land on a celestial body for the first time.
The rover has two wings, stands on six wheels, weighs 140 kg and will be powered by solar energy.
"When it arrives in lunar orbit on board a lander, the rover will choose the best landing site and gently touch down the moon's surface, using optical and microwave sensors to avoid rocks and craters," Zhao said.
The rover will "select the best route, use minimal fuel and make the smallest possible error" during landing and is capable of hovering to steer clear of obstacles, he said.
Domestic and overseas compatriots can submit their proposed names for the rover through the Internet and the official name will be announced in November after an online poll on the selected proposals.
Li Benzheng, deputy chief designer of China's lunar probe program, said the name of the rover should express the wishes of Chinese at home and abroad, feature the modern and national traits to inspire people.
Li noted the rover will recognize obstacles on the moon's surface, and plot a path of least resistance by a combination of onboard navigation systems and remote control from the command center.
The rover can "rest", automatically entering a dormant state to recharge its batteries, and return to work after a while, Li said.
It can endure a vacuum, intense radiation and extremes of temperature. Temperatures on the moon's surface can range from minus 180 to plus 150 degrees Celsius, said Wu Weiren, the program's chief designer.
The rover is equipped with numerous detectors and information gathering systems such as a panoramic camera and radar measurement devices. The rover will patrol the Earth's natural satellite for about three months.
The data collected by the rover, such as 3D images, infrared spectrums and lunar soil analysis, will directly and accurately lead to greater understanding of the moon..
China launched Chang'e-1 in 2007 and Chang'e-2 in 2010. The first probe collected a large body of data and a completed map of the moon. The second mission greatly enhanced the resolution of the previous map and generated a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium, a plain of basaltic lava, considered by lunar observers to be one of the satellite's most beautiful features.
The Chang'e-3 moon probe is part of the second stage of China's three-stage lunar mission, orbiting, landing, and analyzing lunar soil and stone samples.

Quelle: Xinhua

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Update: 28.10.2013

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Chinese lunar rover looks too much like Nasa's Opportunity, say scientists

 

Chinese design plays it safe but ends up looking too much like Nasa's Mars vehicle

Chinese lunar rover looks too much like Nasa's Opportunity, say scientists

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The launch of China's most ambitious lunar probe, scheduled for sometime in December, will likely be a proud moment for many in the nation.
But for some scientists, at least one of whom was directly involved in the project, the event will be frustrating.
The rover, they say, shows little technological innovation, and borrows heavily from American and Soviet-era designs.
The rover, they note, looks similar to Nasa's Opportunity, which has roamed Mars for nearly a decade. Both feature a flat back with solar panels, a long neck fronted by cameras and a robotic arm set at the front chest.
Only their wheels are different. For that part, the Chinese rover seems to have borrowed heavily from the Lunokhod 1 - the first lunar rover launched by the Soviet Union in 1970.
Some scientists directly involved in the rover design project said the Chinese version was derivative.
"There is no denying the similarities," Professor Wen Guilin from Hunan University in Changsha told the South China Morning Post.
Wen said the Chinese vehicle "borrowed heavily from other countries, in particularly the United States".
"A lot of things have been drawn from the reliable and successful design of the [American] Mars rover," he said.
If the Chinese design lacks originality, it is not for want of trying. In 2005, the government asked all qualified universities and institutes to propose designs for the rover. It said the winner would be chosen through a fair, transparent process.
It was the first time that the secretive space agency - run by the military - had invited civilian scientists to participate in a major exploration programme.
Many top universities set up special teams of their best researchers, who proposed creative rover designs. Wen's own team, for instance, offered a design with only four wheels but with a greater ability to manoeuvre over rough terrain.
Civilian scientists were disappointed when authorities decided on a design they felt drew heavily on the American design.
Zhu Jihong, a professor of robotics who entered the competition on behalf of Tsinghua University, said the outcome had dampened Chinese scientists' enthusiasm for innovation.
"In the beginning they said they encouraged original thinking. In the end they did not even bother to make an announcement or give us any feedback," he said. "We will not participate in anything that involves the military in the future."
Professor Cao Qixin, whose team from the Jiaotong University in Shanghai submitted a spider-like design, said he was not surprised by the decision.
Unlike the space programmes in the US and other Western countries, China's programme was not focused on pushing technological limits, Cao said.
"You see other countries have failed in their space programmes. But Chinese missions are almost always perfect," he said, "We only trust tried and proven technology and equipment. They may not be advanced, but they guarantee you success."
Wen, however, defended the government's design decision. "This is a big project, where creativity has to give way to practicality," he said.
Quelle: South China Morning Post
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Carrier rocket sent to launch base for unmanned moon landing mission
A Long March-3B carrier rocket is being transported towards the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China, after left Beijing Sunday morning, to prepare for the upcoming launch of Chang'e-3 moon probe.
The carrier rocket left the capital aboard a train and is scheduled to reach the launch center on Nov. 1, said a statement from the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
Compared with the carrier rocket of Chang'e-2 moon probe, this one has been equipped with a number of new technologies and its reliability has been further improved, the statement said.
All tests on the Chang'e-3 moon probe, which has been in Xichang since Sept. 12, are going on smoothly, the statement added.
The Chang'e-3 moon probe is designed to carry China's first moon rover and soft-land on the moon. Its launch is scheduled at the end of this year.
It is part of the second stage of China's three-stage lunar probe program, orbiting, landing, and analyzing lunar soil and stone samples.
Quelle: CHINAS-NEWS
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Ten candidate names for China's first moon rover after global poll
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Ten possible names for China's first moon rover, likely to be launched in December, have come out after a month-long online poll and debate of a jury board.
"Yutu," or jade hare in Chinese, tops the list while "Tansuo," or explore, and "Lanyue," or catch moon, came at the second and third places, said Sunday's Beijing Times.
Chinese at home and abroad were wooed to submit proposals for the name of the lunar rover at www.xinhuanet.com and www.qq.com from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.
About 190,000 proposals were received and a 14-member jury board selected the ten most popular after heated debates and several rounds of vote on Saturday, said the newspaper report.
Yutu is a white pet rabbit accompanying the goddess Chang'e on the moon in a popular ancient Chinese myth.
In the next week, another online poll will elect the three most popular names and the final result will be announced in November.
The moon rover is scheduled to be on board of the Chang'e-3 moon probe, which will soft-land on the moon.
The rover has two wings, stands on six wheels, weighs 140 kg and will be powered by solar energy.
In an interview last month, Zhao Xiaojin, director of the aerospace department of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, depicted the lunar rover an orbiter adaptable to harsh environments; a highly efficient and integrated robot; and a high altitude "patrolman" carrying the dreams of Asia.
"When it arrives in lunar orbit on board a lander, the rover will choose the best landing site and gently touch down the moon's surface, using optical and microwave sensors to avoid rocks and craters," Zhao said.
The Chang'e-3 moon probe is part of the second stage of China's three-stage lunar mission, orbiting, landing, and analyzing lunar soil and stone samples.
Quelle: Xinhua
 

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Update: 22.11.2013 

China's 1st Moon Lander May Cause Trouble for NASA Lunar Dust Mission

China's mission to robotically land on the moon next month is sure to stir up lunar dust, but it may also cause a political dustup, too.
China is in the final stages of preparing its robotic Chang'e 3 moon lander to launch atop a Long March 3B rocket, slated for liftoff in early December. The ambitious mission is built to first orbit the moon, then propel down to a landing site, after which a small, solar-powered lunar rover will be unleashed.
Already on duty orbiting the moon is NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). The probe's science instrument commissioning is now underway, after which the spacecraft will drop down to the lower lunar science orbit and start the full science phase of the mission.
LADEE is designed to study the moon's thin exosphere and the lunar dust environment. However, there is concern that China's ambitious Chang'e 3 mission could impact LADEE's science goals.
Significant contamination
"The arrival of the Chang'e 3 spacecraft into lunar orbit and then its descent to the surface will result in a significant contamination of the lunar exosphere by the propellant," saidJeff Plescia, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
Plescia also chairs NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), chartered to assist the space agency in planning the scientific exploration of the moon.
While Chang'e 3's mission will create some problems for LADEE — in that the spacecraft would measure not only the native exosphere, but also the Chinese spacecraft's propellant — it also creates a unique opportunity, Plescia told SPACE.
Sinus Iridum area of the moon. It is likely that China will land a rover near Laplace A crater. Arrow shows location of Soviet Lunokhod 1 rover. 
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
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"Propellant will be released at a relatively high altitude from burns as the Chang'e spacecraft enters lunar orbit and then at a range of altitudes as the spacecraft descends to the surface," Plescia said. "LADEE will be able to observe how the propellant becomes distributed into the lunar exosphere and then how it is later removed."
LADEE also has the potential to measure dust that might be lofted above the lunar surface by the Chang'e 3 touchdown, he said.
That big nozzle on the bottom of the Chinese lander, Plescia said, should produce a significant plume on the surface. "We see plume effects at every landing site, human and robotic," he said.
Wanted: scientific cooperation
Clive Neal of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana has a similar point of view.
It is possible that Chang'e 3 could severely compromise the LADEE mission, Neal told SPACE.com. That's because LADEE is slated to establish a baseline evaluation of the moon's exosphere, something that may not be completed by China's robotic landing, Neal said.
"Conversely, with some sort of communication between the missions, including NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)," talk between countries could enhance both LADEE and Chang'e 3 investigations, Neal said.
"What we have here is a situation where politics is certainly inhibiting good scientific cooperation and discovery because the NASA mission people are not allowed to communicate bilaterally with their Chinese counterparts," Neal said.
Landing site
High-definition images of what appears to be the preferred landing spot for Chang'e 3 — called Sinus Iridum — were snapped by China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter in late 2010.
Meanwhile, China's state-run Xinhua News agency has been hosting an online poll, calling on the public to select the rover's name, with "Seeking Dream" in the lead after more than 500,000 votes.
The six-wheeled rover is equipped with four cameras and can climb onto hills and cross over obstacles on the moon's surface, Xiao Jie, a designer for the rover with the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, said according to Xinhua.
The rover will patrol the surface for at least three months under control by scientists on Earth, said Ye Peijian, chief commander of the Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 missions, according to the Xinhua.
Great place to rove
Mark Robinson of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration is eagerly awaiting China's first lunar landing attempt. Robinson is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Principal Investigator on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.               
If indeed China's lander/rover successfully digs its legs into and rolls around Sinus Iridum, Robinson said the site is "a great place to rove!"
Robinson added that the exact landing spot has not officially been announced, but it seems likely the landing will take place in Sinus Iridum, near the fresh crater Laplace A, a feature 5 miles (8 kilometers) in diameter.
If so, the Chinese moon machinery won't be alone.
The Soviet Union's Luna 17/Lunokhod 1 rover landed nearby in November 1970 and is 155 miles (250 km) Southwest of Laplace A.The now-stilled Lunokhod was on the prowl for 11 months, relaying views of the lunar landscape to Earth and carrying out soil tests.
Why Sinus Iridum?
It is likely that there are critical engineering constraints in terms of landing site selection as well as important science goals, Robinson told SPACE.com. An added bonus, he said, is that there is the sheer grandeur view from the rim of Laplace A.
The Chinese rover would get an eyeful rolling up to that rim. It's a sheer drop of more than 5,200 feet (1,600 meters).
From LROC narrow-angle cameras, scientists can tell that the crater sports solid material exposed in the upper walls and has seen dramatic landslides that have streamed material down to the crater floor.
The crater floor hosts a now-frozen lake of impact melt 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in diameter, Robinson said.
Inviting ejecta blanket
Wheeling around the area, the rover will traverse the crater's ejecta blanket, Robinson said, so in a geologic sense, the robot can drive "down" into the crater. Material ejected from deep in the crater ends up near the rim, he said, and rocks from the preimpact surface are thrown far from the crater.
So as a rover drives ever-closer to the rim, it can characterize rocks from deeper and deeper below the surface, Robinson said.
"No humans or robots have ever visited a fresh crater anywhere near this size on the moon — or Mars for that matter — so the return from this mission has great potential for advancing our knowledge of the moon," Robinson said.
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The Chang’e 3 lunar lander and moon rover is part of the second phase of China’s three-step robotic lunar exploration program.
Credit: Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering
Quelle: SpaceInsider

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Update: 26.11.2013

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China´s lunar probe to land on moon next month 

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Wu Zhijian (C), spokesman with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, introduces China's lunar probe at a press conference in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 26, 2013. China is scheduled to launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe to the moon in early December, marking the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, the official said Tuesday.

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China is scheduled to launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe to the moon in early December, the first time a Chinese spacecraft will soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, an official said Tuesday.

 

Chang'e-3 comprises a lander and a moon rover called "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit). The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything goes according to plan, said Wu Zhijian, spokesman with State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence(SASTIND).

 

Tasks for Yutu include surveying the moon's geological structure and surface substances, while looking for natural resources, Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar orbiter project, said in an interview with Xinhua.

 

Yutu will land in Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, and operate there for three months. It can travel at a speed of 200 meters per hour.

 

The Bay of Rainbows was selected because the level terrain will enable smooth communication and ample sunshine. Previous lunar missions were near the lunar equator and no country has surveyed the area yet. The Bay of Rainbows was "left blank" in the study of the moon, said the scientist.

 

The Chang'e-3 mission is the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010.

 

Chinese scientists have made technological breakthroughs for Chang'e-3, which will be the most complicated and difficult task in China's space exploration, SASTIND spokesman Wu said.

 

"More than 80 percent of the technology adopted in the mission is new," he said.

 

The mission will be China's first exploration of an extraterrestrial object using remote control of a lunar probe and deep space communication, Wu said.

 

Narrow time windows mean a timely launch is essential. Different trajectory parameters have to be adapted quickly as intervals between the windows are very short, he said.

 

Many technologies will be used to ensure the probe makes a soft-landing in low-gravity conditions. The rover will separate from the lander to the explore area around the landing site.

 

The lunar program will also see breakthroughs in remote control between the moon and Earth. Technologies of high precision observation and control as well as lunar positioning will be used in the mission, which includes experiments that would be extremely difficult to conduct on Earth's surface, he said.
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Quelle: Xinhua
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China names moon rover "Yutu"
              
China has chosen the name "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit) for its first moon rover, after a worldwide online poll challenged people to come up with names.
Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar program, announced the name at a press conference on Tuesday.
"Yutu is a symbol of kindness, purity and agility, and is identical to the moon rover in both outlook and connotation. Yutu also reflects China's peaceful use of space," said Li.
In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, the moon goddess who has lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission.
Legend has it that, after swallowing a magic pill, Chang'e took her pet and flew toward the moon, where she became a goddess, and has lived there with the white jade rabbit ever since.
From Sept. 25 to Oct. 25, Chinese at home and abroad were invited to submit proposals for the rover's name on two websites. About 190,000 proposals were received and a 14-member jury selected the ten most suitable after heated debate.
Popular names included "Tansuo" (Explore) and "Lanyue" (Catch the Moon), according the Beijing Times. Another popular choice was "Qian Xuesen," the late scientist who is considered the father of China's space program.
In the final round of voting, about 650,000 people out of more than 3.4 million chose Yutu, according to Li.
The moon rover is part of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe, which is expected to be launched in early December. The mission is the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth.
Yutu is scheduled to land on the moon in the middle of December and explore the surface for three months.
If successful, it will be the first time a Chinese spacecraft has soft-landed on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
The rover has two wings, stands on six wheels, and weighs 140 kg. It is a highly efficient and integrated robot that can withstand the vast temperature variations of the moon.

 Quelle: China News

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Update. 28.11.2013

 

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Chinese moon lander on the verge of launch

China has scheduled the launch of an ambitious robotic lunar rover as soon as Sunday on a quest to achieve the first soft landing on the moon in more than three decades.
The Chang'e 3 mission is China's third moon probe, following two successful orbiters that surveyed the lunar surface and mapped landing zones.
Chinese officials say the mission is set for launch in early December, with landing on the moon scheduled for mid-December. China has not officially disclosed the mission's launch or landing dates.
But an aeronautical notice issued to warn pilots of an impending launch indicates the solar-powered rover is set for liftoff Sunday shortly after 1720 GMT (12:20 p.m. EST) from the Xichang space center in southwestern China's Sichuan province.
The launch will come in the middle of the night in China at approximately 1:20 a.m. Beijing time.
A Long March 3B rocket will boost the probe on course toward the moon, where the spacecraft will enter orbit five days after launch before dropping to the lunar surface for landing some time in mid-December, according to Wu Zhijian, a spokesperson for China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, or SASTIND, which is managing the Chang'e 3 mission.
The mission is China's first try to land a spacecraft on the moon - or any other celestial body - and it marks a new phase in the country's exploration efforts, which include a lunar sample return mission before the end of the decade.
The lander reportedly weighs about 3,800 kilograms, or about 8,377 pounds, fully loaded with propellant. It's dimensions measure a bit larger than a sports utility vehicle.
Quelle: SN
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Update: 29.11.2013
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ESA hilft China zum Mond
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Kourou tracking station
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Shortly after China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft departs Earth to land on the Moon, ESA’s network of tracking stations will swing into action, providing crucial support for the vessel’s five-day lunar cruise.

China’s Chang’e-3, named after the mythological goddess of the Moon, is scheduled for lift off on 1 December from the Xichang launch base in China’s Sichuan province on a journey to deposit a lander and a six-wheeled rover on the lunar surface.

The landing, in the Sea of Rainbows on 14 December, will be the first since Russia’s Luna-24 in 1976.

Immediately after liftoff, ESA’s station in Kourou, French Guiana, will start receiving signals from the mission and uploading commands on behalf of the Chinese control centre.

The tracking will run daily throughout the voyage to the Moon. Then, during descent and after landing, ESA’s deep-space stations will pinpoint the craft’s path and touchdown. 

“We are proud that the expertise of our ground station and flight dynamics teams and the sophisticated technologies of our worldwide Estrack network can assist China to deliver a scientifically important lander and rover to the Moon,” says ESA’s Thomas Reiter, Director for Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“Whether for human or robotic missions, international cooperation like this is necessary for the future exploration of planets, moons and asteroids, benefitting everyone.”

The effort is being run from the Estrack Control Centre in ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Chang’e-3 liftoff is set for around 18:00 GMT on 1 December, and the 15 m-diameter dish in Kourou will pick up the first signals around 18:44 GMT.

Working with Chinese tracking stations, Kourou will support the mission through lunar orbit entry on 6 December continuing until just prior to its descent to the surface, expected around mid-day on 14 December.

The landing and rover operations on the Moon will be commanded via two Chinese tracking stations at Kashi, in the far west of China, and at Jiamusi, in the northeast.

“After the lander and rover are on the surface, we will use our 35 m-diameter deep-space antennas at Cebreros, Spain, and New Norcia, Australia, to provide ‘delta-DOR’ location measurement,” says Erik Soerensen, responsible for external mission tracking support at ESOC.

“Using this delta-DOR technique, you can compute locations with extreme accuracy, which will help our Chinese colleagues to determine the precise location of the lander.”

Together with Cebreros, New Norcia will record Chang’e-3’s radio signals during landing, which will help the Chinese space agency to reconstruct the trajectory for future reference.

A team of engineers from China will be on hand in Darmstadt. “While we’re very international at ESOC, hardly anyone speaks Mandarin, so having Chinese colleagues on site will really help in case of any unforeseen problems,” says Erik.

“Both sides are using international technical standards to enable our stations and ESOC to communicate with their mission and ground systems."

Quelle: ESA

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Update: 30.11.2013
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China will send a rabbit rover to the moon this weekend

China may soon become the world's third country to land an object on the surface of the Moon — and a bunny will be along for the ride. On Tuesday, the country voted to name its new lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, out of 190,000 proposed ideas. The choice of name shouldn't be a surprise. On Sunday, December 1st at 17:30 GMT, the superpower will send the rover to the moon on board its Chang'e-3 lunar probe. In Chinese folklore, Chang'e was a goddess who accidentally swallowed an immortality pill and flew to the Moon, with only a rabbit to keep her company.

"Yutu is a symbol of kindness, purity and agility, and is identical to the moon rover in both outlook and connotation. Yutu also reflects China's peaceful use of space," said Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar program, at a press conference announcing the naming choice.

Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 were merely lunar orbiters, and the primary goal of Chang'e-3 is to achieve a soft landing on the moon. Should all go well, Chang'e and Yutu should arrive on the Moon around December 14th, landing in a plain known as the Sea of Rainbows. After that, the six-wheeled rover will spend three months exploring for resources.

China's space program is advancing rapidly, with the country intending to put men on the moon and build a space station of its own before long. However, Chinese officials say they don't intend to provoke another space race, according to a translation at The Planetary Society.

In fact, we have no desire to race with any country. China has its own space program. We are realizing our own plans step by step. Our goal is to use space peacefully. It is also the consensus of the world. Human beings need to make use of space resources to support sustainable development.

Amusingly, the crew of Apollo 11 were asked to look for Chang'e and her rabbit companion as they were about to land on the moon way back in 1969. "We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl," replied astronaut Michael Collins at the time.

Quelle: The Verge

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Update: 1.12.2013 

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The launching tower where the Chang'e-3 lunar probe has been ready for being launched is loaded with fuel at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Nov. 30, 2013. China will launch the Chang'e-3 lunar probe to the moon at 1:30 a.m. Monday. It will be the first time for China to send a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, where it will conduct surveys on the moon.

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The weather at the launch site for China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe will be favorable, a senior engineer with Xichang Satellite Launch Center has said.
Jiang Xiaohua, a senior meteorologist, told Xinhua on Sunday that the weather will be good for the window period for the launch. There will be no rain.
Jiang said cold weather and upper winds may pose challenges as temperature variations will affect the decision on how much fuel will be needed. Strong winds may influence the rocket's trajectory.
China will launch Chang'e-3 lunar probe to the moon at 1:30 a.m. Monday from the launch center.
It will be the first time China has sent a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
Quelle: Xinhua

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Update: 18.45 MEZ 
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The Chang'e 3 lunar probe, now getting ready for its launch at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, is set to accomplish several unprecedented achievements.
It will be a global first to simultaneously land on the moon and carry out both a patrol and surveillance.
Chang’e 3 will be the first Chinese spacecraft to make a soft landing on the surface of any extraterrestrial body.
Additionally, it will be the first Chinese spacecraft to carry out both a a patrol and surveillance in extraterrestrial territory.
Chang'e 3 will be the first Chinese spacecraft to employ radioisotope heat source technology as well as conduct a two-phase fluid loop.
The lunar probe will mean the first breakthrough in the technologies of multiple-window of cryogenic propellant rockets, narrow launch width and high-precision orbiting.
It will for the first time to study and develop a large-scale Chinese deep-space station and set up a deep-space measurement and control network.
It is the first time a remote control will be used on a lunar probe.
It is the first time a lunar probe will research and build a set of high-level experimental facilities and create a set of advanced experimental methods.
Finally then, it is the world’s first lunar probe to carry out multiple scientific research on the moon.
Quelle: China.org
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A Long March 3B rocket launches with China's 'Yutu' moon rover from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Dec. 1, 2013. (Xinhua)
December 1, 2013 — China's first lunar rover is bound for the moon, having launched Sunday (Dec. 1) on a mission that, if successful, will establish China as the third nation to soft land a spacecraft on Earth's natural satellite.
China's Chang'e 3 probe, with its "Yutu" moon rover, lifted off at 11:30 a.m. CST (1730 GMT; 1:30 a.m. Dec. 2 local time) on top of a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country's southwest region.
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Moonshot to test rover’s soft-landing
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Update: 2.12.2013

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ESA BODENSTATIONEN UNTERSTÜTZEN CHINESISCHE MONDMISSION 

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Kurz nachdem Chinas Sonde „Chang'e-3“ die Erde verlassen hat, um auf dem Mond zu landen, hat sich das Bodenstationsnetzwerk der ESA an die Arbeit gemacht, unverzichtbare Unterstützung für den fünftägigen Flug zum Mond zu liefern.
Die MissionChang'e-3, benannt nach der Mondgöttin Chang’e aus der chinesischen Mythologie, ist am 1. Dezember um 18:30 MEZ vom Weltraumbahnhof Xichang LC-2 in der chinesischen Provinz Sichuan gestartet. Die Raumsonde wird eine stationäre Basis und einen sechsrädrigen Rover auf der Mondoberfläche positionieren.
Die Landung an der Regenbogenbucht (Sinus Iridum) ist für den 14. Dezember geplant und wird die erste weiche Mondlandung seit der russischen Mission „Luna 24“ im Jahr 1976 sein.
Unterstützung durch europäische Funkstation
Unmittelbar nach dem Start hatte die 15-Meter-Antenne der ESA-Bodenstation in Kourou, Französisch-Guayana, mit der Unterstützung der Telekommunikation begonnen. Sie hat Signale der Mission empfangen und als Schnittstelle zur chinesischen Kontrollstation Telekommandos fungiert.
Dieser Funkkontakt wird täglich stattfinden und über den kompletten Flug zum Mond andauern. Während des Anflugs und nach der Landung werden die ESA-Weltraumstationen eingesetzt, um akkurate Positionsbestimmungen zu liefern. 
Alle Aktivitäten werden von der Steuerungszentrale des ESA-Bodenstationsnetzes ESTRACK im Europäischen Satellitenkontrollzentrum ESOC in Darmstadt aus kontrolliert.
„Wir sind stolz darauf, dass die Kompetenz unserer Bodenstation und das Fachwissen unseres Flugdynamik-Teams sowie die hochentwickelte Technologie unseres weltweiten ESTRACK-Netzwerkes China dabei helfen können, einen wissenschaftlich bedeutenden Lander und einen Rover zum Mond zu bringen“, sagt Thomas Reiter, Leiter des ESA-Direktorats für Bemannte Raumfahrt und Missionsbetrieb.
„Ob für bemannte oder robotergesteuerte Missionen, solche internationalen Kooperationen sind für die zukünftige Erforschung von Planeten, Monden und Asteroiden notwendig und nutzen der Allgemeinheit.“
Der Start der Chang’e-3-Mission ist am 1. Dezember um18:30 Uhr MEZ  erfolgt. Die Station in Kourou hat die ersten Signale um 19:34 Uhr MEZ empfangen.
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ESTRACK-Kontrollraum am ESOC in Darmstadt/GERMANY
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In Abstimmung mit chinesischen Funkstationen wird das Zentrum in Kourou die Mission beim Eintritt in die Mondumlaufbahn am 6. Dezember bis zum Anflug der Sonde auf die Mondoberfläche, der um die Mittagszeit am 14. Dezember erwartet wird, unterstützen.
Die Mondlandung und die Roveroperationen auf der Oberfläche werden über die chinesischen Stationen Kashi und Jiamusi kontrolliert.
„Nachdem der Lander und der Rover auf der Mondoberfläche angekommen sind, werden unsere Raumstationen in Cebreros, Spanien, und New Norcia, Australien, die mit 35-Meter-Antennen ausgestattet sind, Standortbestimmungen mit delta-DOR-Technologie durchführen“, sagt Erik Soerensen, zuständig für die Unterstützung externer Missionsverfolgung am ESOC.
„Mit der delta-DOR-Technologie können Standorte äußerst präzise berechnet werden. Das wird unseren chinesischen Kollegen dabei helfen, die exakte Position des Landers zu lokalisieren.“
Station in New Norcia beobachten die Mondlandung
Die Stationen in New Norcia und Cebreros werden die Chang’e-3-Radiosignale während der Landung aufzeichnen. Diese Aufzeichnungen werden der chinesischen Raumfahrtbehörde helfen, die Flugbahn für zukünftige Anwendungen zu rekonstruieren.
Während der Unterstützungsaktivitäten wird ein chinesisches Ingenieur-Team in Darmstadt stationiert sein.
„Beide Seiten nutzen internationale technische Standards, sodass unsere Stationen und das ESOC mit ihrer Mission und ihren Experten am Boden kommunizieren können“, sagt Soerensen.
„Wir sind am ESOC sehr international aufgestellt. Dennoch haben wir kaum Mitarbeiter, die Mandarin sprechen. Im Fall von unerwarteten Problemen wird es also sehr hilfreich sein, die chinesischen Kollegen vor Ort zu haben.“
Quelle: ESA
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Update: 3.12.2013
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Chang'e-3 trims its orbit
               
BEIJING, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Chang'e-3, China's first planned soft moon landing, finished the first orbital trimming at 3:50 p.m. in its trajectory along the earth-moon transfer orbit, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.
Chang'e-3 mission with moon rover "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit) was successfully launched early on Monday morning from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
It will travel for around 112 hours along the earth-moon transfer orbit, while scientists adjust its orbit depending on the circumstances.
The probe is estimated to reach the 100-km high circular lunar orbit sometime on Friday.
The BACC said as of 4:00 p.m. Beijing Time on Monday, Chang'e-3 has been flying for about 14 hours and is now about 138,000 km away from Earth.
Quelle: Xinhua
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Update: 6.12.2013
 

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Planned orbit trim for Chang'e-3 canceled

Chinese lunar probe Chang'e-3 will not perform a planned third trimming of its trajectory along the earth-moon transfer orbit, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
Chang'e-3, which is carrying moon rover "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit), was successfully launched early Monday morning from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
"The probe's carrier, an enhanced Long March-3B rocket, entered the orbit with comparatively high precision, and the first two orbital trimmings were highly exact, which resulted in the probe being capable of meeting the demands of near-moon deceleration and follow-up orbital control," said a statement released Thursday by the administration.
Noting good adaptability in the flying control plan for Chang'e-3, the statement added that "it has been decided that a third orbital trimming is not necessary."
If all goes well, the Chang'e-3 mission will mark the first time for China to send a spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, where it will conduct surveys of the Moon.
According to the administration, the variable thrust engine -- completely designed and made by Chinese scientists -- can realize continuous variation of thrust power ranging from 1,500 to 7,500 newtons. It will offer the main momentum for Chang'e-3 as it decelerates before reaching the lunar surface.
Chang'e-3 has been in normal operation for about 88 hours as of 6 p.m. Thursday, with a distance travelled of nearly 350,000 kilometers, according to the statement.
Quelle: Xinhua
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China's Chang'e-3 probe entered a circular lunar orbit at 5:53 p.m. Friday Beijing Time, after about 112 hours on a Earth-Moon transfer orbit, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.
The probe entered the lunar orbit after 361 seconds of precise braking by the variable thrust engine, following orders by engineers with BACC.
The center later verified that Chang'e-3 had entered the 100 km-high lunar circular orbit.
The braking was important otherwise Chang'e-3 would have escapes from the Moon, or crashed into it, said BACC.
The probe was launched at 1:30 a.m. Monday from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Center. It should soft-land on the Moon in the middle of December.
Quelle: Xinhua
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Update: 7.12.2013
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BEIJING, China's Chang'e-3 probe entered a circular lunar orbit at 5:53 p.m. Friday Beijing Time, after about 112 hours on a Earth-Moon transfer orbit, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.

The probe entered the lunar orbit after 361 seconds of precise braking by the variable thrust engine, following orders by engineers with BACC.

The center later verified that Chang'e-3 had entered the 100 km-high lunar circular orbit.

The braking was important otherwise Chang'e-3 would have escapes from the Moon, or crashed into it, said BACC.

The probe was launched at 1:30 a.m. Monday from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Center. It should soft-land on the Moon in the middle of December.

Quelle: Xinhua

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Update: 11.12.2013
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Chang'e-3 probe moves closer to the moon
               
BEIJING, China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 entered an orbit closer to the moon on Tuesday night.
Following an order from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the probe descended from the 100 km-high lunar circular orbit to an elliptical orbit with its nearest point about 15 km away from the moon's surface, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said in a statement.
The administration said the transition was conducted above the dark side of the moon at 9:20 p.m.
At 9:24 p.m., it was confirmed that Chang'e-3 had entered the new orbit.
In the new orbit, the probe will prepare for a soft-landing on the moon's surface, according to the statement.
Chang'e-3, which is carrying moon rover "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit), was successfully launched on Dec. 2 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
It is expected to land on the moon in mid-December, and will be China's first spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
Quelle: Xinhua  
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Update: 12.12.2013
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Chang'e-3 tritt in nähere Umlaufbahn von Mond
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The lunar probe Chang'e-3 moved a step closer to the moon on Tuesday night. The craft descended from a 100 kilometer-high lunar orbit to an elliptical orbit with its nearest point, just 15 kilometers from the moon’s surface.
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China's lunar probe Chang'e-3 entered an orbit closer to the moon on Dec. 10, 2013. 
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According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, the transition took place above the dark side of the moon at 9.20 p.m, Beijing time. The transition took around four minutes. In the new orbit, Chang’e-3 will prepare for a soft-landing on the moon’s surface.
The probe, which is carrying the moon rover "Yutu", was launched on December the 2nd. China’s first soft-landing on the moon is set to take place in the coming days.
Quelle: Xinhua
 

 

 

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