Yutu gets rolling on the moon

Chi­nese flag ap­pears on lu­nar sur­face for the first time

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI and ZHAO HUANXIN

China’s first lu­nar rover and the lan­der took pic­tures of each other near mid­night on Sun­day, mark­ing the com­plete suc­cess of the coun­try’s Chang’e-3 lu­nar probe mis­sion.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang, who both came to the Bei­jing Aero­space Con­trol Center late Sun­day night to watch the photo-tak­ing ses­sion, con­grat­u­lated sci­en­tists for the suc­cess.

Ma Xin­grui, chief com­man­der of China’s lu­nar pro­gram, an­nounced lu­nar probe Chang’e- 3 mis­sion a “com­plete suc­cess”, af­ter the lan­der and moon rover took pic­tures of each other.

A na­tional flag was shown pasted on the moon rover in a pic­ture taken by the lan­der. Aero­space ex­perts said the flag, plus another one on the lan­der, could sus­tain ex­treme weather con­di­tions.

It was the first time China’s na­tional flag had ap­peared on a ce­les­tial body.

Yutu , which has a de­signed life span of three months, will also con­duct ge­o­graphic sur­veys, said Sun Huix­ian, deputy chief engi­neer of China’s lu­nar ex­plo­ration pro­gram.

In an­cient Chi­nese mythol­ogy, Yutu is the white pet rab­bit of the lu­nar god­dess Chang’e.

The rover will an­a­lyze ma­jor el­e­ments on the lu­nar sur­face and study en­ergy and min­eral re­sources along its route. A radar sys­tem at­tached to the bot­tom of the rover can probe up to 100 me­ters be­neath the lu­nar sur­face, he said.

Sun Zezhou, chief de­signer of the Chang’e-3 probe, said Yutu is able to climb slopes of up to 30 de­grees and travel at 200 me­ters per hour, ex­plain­ing that de­sign­ers set a low speed for the ve­hi­cle be­cause it has to de­tect and avoid ob­sta­cles.

The­o­ret­i­cally, Yutu can travel nearly 10 kilo­me­ters on the moon, Sun said, not­ing that engi­neers had set up a lab­o­ra­tory on Earth to sim­u­late the rig­or­ous en­vi­ron­ment on the moon and the rover has passed nu­mer­ous tests.

Us­ing its abil­ity to de­tect ob­sta­cles, the rover will de­ter­mine a path of least re­sis­tance by cou­pling on­board nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems with re­mote con­trol.

The moon’s wide tem­per­a­ture range — from more than 100 C dur­ing day to as low as -180 C at night — presents another chal­lenge to the rover.

To work prop­erly, the rover has to main­tain an in­ter­nal op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture range of -40 to 50 C, so both the lan­der and rover are equipped with ra­dioiso­tope heater units.

The Chang’e-3’s lan­der will de­ploy a tele­scope to ob­serve stars, the galaxy and the universe from the moon, ac­cord­ing to Sun.

“This is the first time hu­mankind has placed a tele­scope on the moon. The spe­cial en­vi­ron­ment on the moon will en­able us to con­duct ob­ser­va­tion that could not be done on Earth due to the im­pact of the at­mos­phere,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, the lan­der also car­ried an ex­treme-ul­tra­vi­o­let imager to ob­serve the plas­ma­s­phere over Earth.

The 140- kilo­gram, sixwheeled rover touched the lu­nar sur­face at 4:35 am on Sun­day, leav­ing deep tracks on the loose lu­nar soil. A cam­era on the lan­der recorded the process and the im­ages were sent to Earth, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing Aero­space Con­trol Center.

The Chang’e-3 probe landed on the moon on Satur­day night, mak­ing China the first na­tion to do so in nearly four decades.

The last soft land­ing took place on Aug 18, 1976, with Luna-24, a space­craft of the for­mer Soviet Union.

Re­searchers from the United States and other na­tions viewed Chang’e-3’s op­er­a­tions on the moon as “a new sci­en­tific op­por­tu­nity that could po­ten­tially en­hance stud­ies and ob­ser­va­tions of the lu­nar at­mos­phere”, NASA said on Fri­day.

“The Chang’e-3 de­tails tell me that the US now ab­so­lutely must start com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the Chi­nese about lu­nar co­op­er­a­tion,” said US as­tro­naut Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 in an in­ter­view with Aero­space Amer­ica mag­a­zine.

Rus­sian as­tro­naut Vladimir Ko­valenok said the Chi­nese lu­nar pro­gram is on the right track and China can go down this path while tak­ing into ac­count the pros and cons of lu­nar pro­grams in the United States and the for­mer Soviet Union.

“China is now a pi­o­neer in this field, and its lu­nar mis­sions will be a cat­a­lyst for lu­nar ex­plo­rations in other coun­tries, as the moon can serve as a ba­sis for a ‘ jump’ on jour­neys to more dis­tant space in the universe,” he said.

The Chang’e-3 mis­sion is the sec­ond phase of China’s lu­nar pro­gram, which in­cludes or­bit­ing, land­ing and re­turn­ing to Earth. It fol­lows the suc­cess of the Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 mis­sions in 2007 and 2010.

China is likely to re­al­ize the third step of its lu­nar pro­gram in 2017, which is to land a lu­nar probe on moon, re­lease a moon rover and re­turn the probe to Earth.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.