China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover. continues to serve as an astronomical observation outpost. Credit: NAOC

China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover. continues to serve as an astronomical observation outpost.
Credit: NAOC

China’s lunar lander, Chang’e-3, with the country’s first lunar rover aboard, successfully landed on the moon on December 14, 2013. That event marked China’s first successful soft-landing on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.

Chinese space officials noted last week that the lander has entered its 33rd dormancy period, calling it a record for the longest work time by a lunar probe.

The still active lander has collected significant amounts of data and images of the Moon in the past two and half years, “getting three ‘first’ research findings in the human lunar exploration history,” according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Image of China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander taken by Yutu rover. Equipment on the stationary lander continues to operate after landing on the Moon in December of 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Image of China’s Chang’e 3 lunar lander taken by Yutu rover. Equipment on the stationary lander continues to operate after landing on the Moon in December of 2013.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Lunar penetrating radar

The Chang’e-3 lander is equipped with three categories of scientific devices, including a descent camera, a lunar-based optical telescope, and an extreme ultraviolet imager, exploring the lunar, the universe and the plasmasphere around the Earth.

As reported in a July 29th CCTV-Plus video: Chang’e-3 obtained the world’s first geological section map of the Moon with a lunar penetrating radar, which provided an important scientific basis to know the evolution history of the Moon and explore its resources.

The map showed the features and the evolution history of the geological structure that is 330 meters deep under the lunar surface, and discovered a new rock – the lunar basalt.

China's Yutu Moon rover. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Yutu Moon rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

“The radar detected three layers of basalt under the ground…especially that the top layer was 195 meters deep. This indicates that until the late period, about more than two billion years, there were still huge amounts of magma that were erupting. This shows that the activity of the magma on the Moon lasted longer than expected before,” explains Lin Yangting, a researcher of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Chang’e-3’s latest data showed that the lunar soil is five meters deep, almost doubling the previous data obtained by other countries.

Water on the moon

According to the CCTV-Plus video, Chang’e-3’s optical telescope working in the ultraviolet band got the latest data about the water content on the lunar surface, “proving for the first time that there is no water on the Moon.”

“We measured the content of water on the lunar surface and above, and got the historically smaller value, which is also in line with the expectations of the experts on the formation of the Moon,” said Wei Jianyan, researcher of National Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“The smaller the measured value, the smaller possibility of existence of water in figuring out whether there is water on the Moon,” the CCTV-Plus video adds.

The shadow knows! China’s Chang’e 3 landing site as seen via NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The shadow knows! China’s Chang’e 3 landing site as seen via NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Credit: National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Credit: National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Earth’s plasmasphere

The world’s first extreme ultraviolet imager installed on the Chang’e-3 lander also obtained a large amount of plasmasphere images of the Earth.

The plasmasphere is the first of the natural screens surrounding the Earth, which can extend to around 40,000 kilometers away from the surface of the Earth. It can prevent the interference of the solar wind, high-energy particles and most of the cosmic rays.

“The Earth’s plasmasphere is in the innermost of the Earth’s magnetosphere. If the magnetosphere is interfered, the shape, position and structure of the plasmasphere will be affected. Therefore by detecting the structure and evolution of the Earth’s plasmasphere, we can monitor the influence of the solar activities to the earth,” says He Han, associate researcher of National Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

1,300 images

The huge impulse of the solar storm will severely destroy the communication functions of the artificial objects that are running along the earth, such as the navigation satellite, the communication satellite and manned spacecrafts.

It is the exclusive ability of Chang’e-3 to observe the change of the plasmasphere as an indicator to monitor the solar storm.

The extreme ultraviolet imager on the Chinese lander has already collected more than 1,300 images of the Earth’s plasmasphere.

One Response to “China’s 2013 Lunar Lander: New Research Findings Detailed”

  • Edward L. Patrick says:

    I don’t believe anyone in lunar science has maintained that water existed at the surface at depths detectable to UV, or am I missing something?

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