Friday, November 29, 2013

Chang'e-3 launch window opens 1 December 1730 UT

CCTV video still, released August 2013, shows final tests and loading of China's Chang'e-3, the third mission of China's Lunar Exploration Program [CCTV/CNSA].
Joel Raupe 
Lunar Pioneer
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) is gearing up for a nighttime launch of it's third unmanned lunar mission, Chang'e-3, Sunday, December 1 (UT), the first of a series of launch windows beginning 1730 UT, December 1; early Monday morning, December 2, at 1:30 am in Beijing.

Chang'e-3 will be launched aboard a modified Long March 3B booster from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Suchuan Provence. The long-stated goal of the mission is to perform China's first soft-landing beyond Earth and the first such landing on the Moon in the 21st century, the first since the Soviet mission Luna 24 landed and retrieved a sample from Mare Crisium in 1976.

Presuming a successful launch, early Monday local time, Chang'e-3 will land on the Moon as early as Saturday, December 14, or about 30 hours after local sunrise at the targeted landing zone in Sinus Iridum. A landing early into the two-week-long lunar day will allow the mission to take full advantage of its designed use of solar power.

Sunrise at the intended landing zone, in the vicinity of Laplace A crater (43.74°N, 26.935°W), will begin in the early hours of December 12 (UT).

The mission is also designed to deploy the first remote-operated lunar rover on the lunar surface since the Soviet Luna 21 lander deployed Lunokhod-2 and explored Le Monnier crater in 1973. 

Following a national naming contest with 650,000 online participants, China state news sources report the Chang'e-3 lunar rover has been named Yutu, (Jade Rabbit), after the traditional ethereal attendant to the lunar goddess Chang'e.

Tasks for Yutu include "surveying the moon's geological structure and surface substances while looking for natural resources," said Ouyang Ziyuan, a chief scientist of CLEP, in an interview with Xinhua ("China's lunar probe to land on Moon next month," Mo Hong'e, November 26,

A detailed summary of the planned landing zone for the Chang'e-3 mission, near Laplace A crater in east Sinus Iridum, was posted HERE, a discussion written by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) principal investigator Dr. Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, released November 22.

In cooperation with the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) in Hawaii, an ultra-violet telescope will be operated from the Chang'e-3 lander, a first since a small UV instrument was operated on the Moon by the Apollo 16 expedition in 1972.

China's Lunar Exploration Program, initiated in 2004, consists of five planned missions. Chang'e-1 became that nation's first lunar orbiter November 5, 2007 and was deorbited to a reportedly planned impact in Mare Fecunditatis, March 1, 2009.

The highly-successful Chang'e-2 orbiter was launched from Xichang, October 1, 2009 and was inserted into lunar orbit five days later. Chang'e-2 captured orbital photography later assembled into a global, low-angle illumination mosaic of the Moon, said to be the first of its kind. 

While performing orbital maneuvers critical to the planned Chang'e-3 landing in Sinus Iridum, Chang'e-2 captured high-resolution low-perilune photography of Laplace A crater and its vicinity.

Chang'e-2 was afterward maneuvered beyond Cislunar space, leaving lunar orbit  June 9, 2011. Ground controllers moved the spacecraft to an extended stay in and around Lagrangian Point 2 (L2), one of five stable points in the Earth-Moon-Sun system where the influences of the gravity of the three bodies balance each other out. 

L2 space is beyond the Moon, more or less directly over the farside, and it presumably where communications with surface missions beyond line-of-sight of Earth could be at least partially maintained.

4179 Toutatis Chang'e-2 flyby
Chang'e-2 passed to within 3.2 km of the potentially hazardous asteroid 4179 Toutatis in December 2012, traveling at a relative speed of 11.72 kilometers per second [CNSA/Xinhua].
Still underway, having departed L2 for interplanetary space, Chang'e-2 recently returned photographs of its recent very close encounter with potentially hazardous asteroid 4179 Toutatis, December 13, 2012.

After Chang'e-3, China plans at least two additional unmanned lunar missions designed to retrieve samples, Chang'e 4 in 2015 and Chang'e 5 in 2018.

Related Posts:
'Government Penalty' removed from Google Lunar XPRIZE terms (November 7, 2013)
Chang'e-3 and LADEE: The Role of Serendipity (October 31, 2013)
Outstanding animation celebrates China's Chang'e-3 (October 29, 2013)
LROC updates image tally of human artifacts on the Moon (September 25, 2013)
Chang'e-3 officially enters launch phase (August 31, 2013)
Chang'e-3 undergoing thermal vacuum testing (May 9, 2013)
Chang'e-3: China's rover mission (May 4, 2013)
Chang'e-3 lander and rover expected in 2013 (January 10, 2013)
China's grand plan for lunar exploration (October 11, 2012)
ILOA to study deep space from Chang'e-3 (September 11, 2012)
Will China deploys first lunar rover since 1976? (April 29, 2012)
China's Long March to the Moon (January 14, 2012)
China plans lunar research base (May 11, 2011)
PRC continues methodical program (March 8, 2011)
Chang'e-2 arrives in mission orbit (October 9, 2010)
Dispatch from Chang'e-2: Sinus Iridum (October 4, 2010)
Chang'e-2 takes direct approach (October 1, 2010)
Chang'e-2 sets stage for future lunar missions (September 3, 2010)
Chang'e-1 research reported published (July 22, 2010)

1 comment:

Phil Stooke said...

"After Chang'e-3, China plans at least two additional unmanned lunar missions designed to retrieve samples, Chang'e 4 in 2015 and Chang'e 5 in 2018."

Not quite. Chang'e 4 in about 2015 is another rover like CE 3, a backup if this one fails, or a second mission if it doesn't (like CE 2 for CE 1). The sample returns are CE 5 and CE 6 - two missions in each of the three stages. Only one area was imaged at high resolution (1.5 m/pixel) by CE 2, the Sinus Iridum area, and it seems likely that all four landers will go to the same area. It's not redundant - there are two very different mare units in the target zone, so we will probably have one rover mission in each unit and then one sample return in each unit.