China’s Chang’e-7 lander launches hopper craft to search for lunar ice.
Image credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab


China’s Moon exploration plans call for deep diving into permanently shadowed areas of the lunar south pole. The country’s Chang’e-7 mission is slated to take place around 2026 and utilize a mini-flying probe to investigate the permanently-shadowed bottom of an impact crater.


The Chang’e-7 mission consists of an orbiter, lander, the hopper and a rover and is targeted for a touchdown in a southeastern area of Shackleton crater.

In this multi-temporal illumination map of the lunar south pole, Shackleton crater (19 km diameter) is in the center, the south pole is located approximately at 9 o’clock on its rim. The map was created from images from the camera aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

A drilling tool on the mobile probe will sample lunar soil water-ice before a mechanical arm moves that sample into a heating furnace for spectral analysis. A Lunar Water Molecular Analyzer (LWMA) on the mini-flyer will appraise lunar soil water-ice in the surface frost layer.

Different depths

According to Yingzhuo Jia of the National Space Science Center in Beijing, the LWMA has the ability to “analyze samples for many times and can take samples at different depths and locations for many times, so as to obtain the data of water-ice content varying with depth and region.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson discusses lunar landing sites as he testifies during an April House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing.
One photo – multiple nations headed for lunar territory.
Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Yingzhuo and colleagues note that results from the on-the-fly hopper “can also provide evidence of the composition and content of direct volatile matter, whether it contains H₂O, H₂S, NH3, SO₂, and other volatile matter, and whether more volatile matter is deposited in the permanent shadow areas compared with the existing results of Apollo samples or lunar meteorites.”

Artist’s view of International Lunar Research Station to be completed by 2035. Credit: CNSA


An overview of the Chang’e-7 mission objectives – “Research of Lunar Water-Ice and Exploration for China’s Future Lunar Water-Ice Exploration” has been published in the open access journal Space: Science & Technology at:

In related Moon work, also published in the journal, go to – “Overview of the Lunar In Situ Resource Utilization Techniques for Future Lunar Missions” – at:

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