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Scientist discusses China's lunar orbiter challenges

2012-09-19 16:20 Xinhua     Web Editor: Gu Liping comment

Landing and enduring extreme temperatures will be the two biggest challenges facing Chang'e-3, China's third lunar probe, the chief scientist of China's lunar orbiter project told academics on Wednesday.

Every effort is being made to ensure the soft-landing of the Chang'e-3 orbiter, said Ouyang Ziyuan on Wednesday in a report delivered at the conference of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

Different from the hard-landing adopted for the first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, Chang'e-3 cannot land with a parachute, explained Ouyang. "A smooth and steady soft landing on the lunar surface will be a challenge," he said of the project, which will see Chang'e-3 launched in the second half of 2013 to conduct a moon landing and lunar explorations.

Plans have been made for Chang'e-3 to free-fall after being slowed down by counterforce as it approaches the lunar surface, Ouyang said.

After it lands on the moon, Chang'e-3 will have to endure heat during the day and extremely low temperatures at night. The prolonged lunar night can see temperatures drop below minus 180 degrees Celsius.

However, Ouyang said a complete plan has been put forward to cope with the sharp temperature variations, and China's indigenously developed atomic batteries will be installed to help the device withstand intense heat and cold.

"The hope is that China completes the three-phase unmanned lunar probe projects of orbiting, landing and returning in 2017, so as to pave the way for a manned lunar mission in the future," said the chief scientist.

China launched Chang'e-1 in 2007 and Chang'e-2 in 2010. The first probe retrieved a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon, while the second created a full high-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of its feature Sinus Iridium.

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