Chang’e-3 probe sets out on new mis­sions

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Chang’e-3 lu­nar probe has started its long-term sci­en­tific mis­sions and will have its dura­bil­ity tested when it con­tin­ues lu­nar sur­face sur­veys, sources with the Bei­jing Aero­space Con­trol Center said on Thurs­day.

The center trans­ferred op­er­a­tions of the probe to a smaller man­age­ment team on Wed­nes­day night, said Cui Yan, who leads the team at the center.

“We have made all the hard­ware and soft­ware ready for the long-term con­trol tasks and have de­vel­oped new man­age­ment meth­ods,” Cui said, not­ing this is the first time China would op­er­ate a lu­nar probe for as long as one year.

Liu Junqi, one of the chief engi­neers on Cui’s team, said that dur­ing the year­long task the team will co­or­di­nate deep-space con­trol sta­tions around the na­tion to closely mon­i­tor the Chang’e-3 lan­der and the Yutu rover, and to ar­range sci­en­tific mis­sions on the lu­nar sur­face.

One of the ma­jor re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the team is to put the lan­der and rover into sleep mode when the lu­nar night falls and “awaken them” once the night ends, he said.

One night on the moon lasts about 14 Earth days, dur­ing which the tem­per­a­ture falls be­low mi­nus 180 C and there is no sun­light to pro­vide power for the in­stru­ments’ so­lar pan­els.

“The trans­fer of con­trol marks the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the probe’s first stage of ex­plo­ration and sci­en­tific mis­sions,” said a pub­lic­ity of­fi­cer at Bei­jing Aero­space Con­trol Center who re­fused to be named.

He said un­der the longterm man­age­ment mode, the lan­der and rover do not need a lot of peo­ple to take care of them, there­fore Cui’s team, which has less than 20 peo­ple, is able to take over from the cur­rent large con­trol group.

“Next, the team will con­trol the probe to per­form sci­en­tific op­er­a­tions that can last sev­eral months. Engi­neers will test whether the lan­der and rover can func­tion well over a long pe­riod and whether they can live up to their de­signed life span,” the of­fi­cer added. “Dur­ing the year­long pe­riod, the team’s con­trollers and engi­neers will work about 15 con­sec­u­tive night shifts each month, so this is re­ally a tough job.”

The lu­nar rover Yutu has a de­signed life span of three months, and the lan­der is ex­pected to work for one year.

Af­ter wak­ing up fol­low­ing nearly two weeks of dor­mancy, Yutu com­pleted its first sam­pling of lu­nar soil us­ing its me­chan­i­cal arm on Tues­day, the Bei­jing center said.

“Ac­cu­racy con­trol of the me­chan­i­cal arm at a dis­tance of 380,000 kilo­me­ters has been re­al­ized in the probe, mark­ing China’s break­through in con­trol­ling a me­chan­i­cal arm with high pre­ci­sion on the lu­nar sur­face,” said Wu Fen­glei from the center.

Yutu will con­tinue to sur­vey the moon’s ge­o­log­i­cal struc­ture and sur­face sub­stances and look for nat­u­ral re­sources, while the lan­der will ex­plore the land­ing site un­til the end of its life span.

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