The State Council Information Office of China (SCIO) has held a press conference to discuss the January 3 landing of the country’s Chang’e-4 farside mission.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

 

The State Council Information Office of China (SCIO) held a press conference to discuss the January 3 landing of the country’s Chang’e-4 farside mission.

Discussed at the January 14 event were future Moon exploration plans by China, particularly the launch by year’s end of the Chang’e-5 mission to bring lunar samples back to Earth.

China’s next Moon exploration phase: Sample return from the Moon.
Credit: CCTV/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Subsequent projects

“Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it’s confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang’e-5,” said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) at the press briefing.

According to Wu, the Chang’e-6 mission will be designed to bring samples back from the South Pole of the Moon. “Whether the probe will land on the nearside or the farside of the Moon, we will make the decision according to the performance of Chang’e-5,” he said.

As reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the Chang’e-7 mission will carry out comprehensive surveys around the South Pole, including studying terrain and landform, physical composition as well as the space environment in the region.

Apollo 15 image captures landing locale of China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander – the Mons Rümker region in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum.
Credit: NASA

Science, research base

The Chang’e-8 mission, in addition to scientific surveys and experiments, will test key technologies to lay the groundwork for the construction of a science and research base on the Moon, Xinhua reported.

China, the United States, Russia and some European countries all want to try out technologies needed for such a scientific lunar base. “For example, can we build houses on the moon with lunar soil using 3D printing technology?” Wu said.

The European Space Agency is exploring 3D printing of habitats and other structures on the Moon.
Credit: RegoLight, visualization: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

“We hope that Chang’e-8 will help test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries,” Wu said.

Rover challenges

In a related Xinhua news story, Chinese space experts at the SCIO press briefing noted that China’s second lunar rover — Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2 — will face great challenges in its survey of the Von Karman Crater landscape in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on the Moon’s farside.

Yutu-2 rover as imaged by Chang’e-4 lander.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

“From the images sent back from Chang’e-4, we can see the area surrounding the probe is dotted with craters of different sizes, and it’s very difficult for the rover to drive in the region,” Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Chang’e-4 probe, explained.

“We’ll try to find the relatively safe areas and make a reasonable plan for the route of the rover based on the images taken by it,” Sun said, adding “we haven’t found any insurmountable obstacle in the region.”

Science phase

The Chang’e-4 mission is equipped with 13 payloads, including four scientific payloads jointly developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and China.

Wu Weiren, general designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said that three major aspects will be carried out by Chang’e-4 probe as the mission transfers from commission phase to scientific exploration phase.

First is exploring the topography of the landing area and carrying out a geological profile of the farside. The second, Wu said, is primarily about the space environment around the Moon, including the impact of cosmic radiation, solar radiation and solar flare explosion on the lunar space. And the third is the study of the material composition of the lunar landscape.

The Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover have entered lunar night. The rover will be reactivated after 14 days when the Moon enters daytime.

Wu Weiren, general designer of China’s lunar exploration program.
Credit: SCIO

U.S.-China cooperation?

Meanwhile, China Daily reports that former NASA chief, Charles Bolden, said that Congressional prohibitions on space cooperation with China-as stipulated by the 2011 Wolf Amendment to NASA appropriations bills-is a “significant legal constraint” and “hindrance” that should be relaxed or reversed, Bolden said.

“I’m incredibly optimistic. I just think cooler heads will prevail,” Bolden said in an exclusive interview, according to China Daily.

A former astronaut, Bolden ran the U.S. space agency from July 2009 to January 2017.

Open airlock for China on the International Space Station?
Credit: Roscosmos

Remove restriction

“If this administration went to the Congress and said, ‘Look, we want to relax the stipulations on the Wolf Amendment’ or ‘We want to eliminate the Wolf Amendment’, it could get passed in a heartbeat, and that would remove the restriction and we’d be able to collaborate in human spaceflight,” Bolden was reported as stating.

“My firm belief is that we should integrate China into the International Space Station program. It doesn’t have a lot of time left,” Bolden said, referring to the planned retirement of the ISS in a few years. That would help China “avoid some of the mistakes that were made with building the International Space Station,” he said in the China Daily story.

To view the SCIO press briefing, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7FiaHwv-BI

 

2 Responses to “China Details Future Moon Exploration Plans”

  • FOHAT says:

    The most important treasure of the moon is in the underground part of the far side. The best future space habitat for human species, nearest, shielded from sun. But requires creativity and innovation developments, for provide the four elements ready for human use –clean air, potable water, energy, fertile earth. The fifth element is the love of God if permit that future.

  • WILLIAM JACOBS says:

    It has been said before. Imagine if we worked together instead of wasting time figuring ways to one up each other, what could be done on all fronts. Space, medicine, feeding everybody. With all the wealth of knowledge and money, nobody anywhere should be left hungry, sick, homeless. It could happen. World leaders only need to get a grip on themselves.

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