Live: China launches its first moon rover
Editor’s note: China launches its Chang’e 3 lunar probe at 1:30 a.m. on December 2, 2013, for a moon landing mission. It will be the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. Stay tuned with China.org.cn for live coverage of the event.
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[2:26]Thank you for staying with us. Please join us when the spacecraft lands on the moon.
[2:25]The launch of the Chang’e 3 lunar probe is completed.
[2:21]The commander from the Xichang Launch Center announces the successful launch.
[2:19]The probe has opened its solar panels.
[2:16]Chang’e 3 flight mission control team is a relatively young team, with an average age of 32.4.
[2:15]The lander has successfully opened its buffer device, a central part of the process.
[2:10]The Beijing control center is closely monitoring the rover’s progress in space.
[2:02]Chang’e 3 will set up a telescope on the moon first time in human history, observe the plasmasphere over the Earth and survey the moon surface through radar.
[2:00]The rover is arriving at the perigee.
[1:58]The rocket has completed its mission.
[1:57]Chang’e 3 will fly for 112 hours.
[1:56]The probe keeps a steady flight position.
[1:54]The ground center is sending orders to the probe.
[1:49]The rocket and the probe have been separated.
[1:48]The third stage engine has been shut down for the second time.
[1:45]The third stage engine has been ignited for the second time.
[1:43]Apollo 11 jokingly ordered to watch for Chang’e
China has named its first moon rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit), stirring interest in a conversation that took place in 1969 between US spacecraft Apollo 11 and its control center in Houston.
As the Apollo 11 prepared to land on the Moon July 20, 1969, Ronald Evans, who worked at the control center, told the astronauts aboard to “watch for a lovely lady with a big rabbit,” according to the flight journals of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
He also talked about the Chinese legend of the Moon, “An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-e has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree.”
Michael Collins, one of the astronauts on Apollo 11, answered: “Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”
Emily Lakdawalla, a US planetary scientist, mentioned the above anecdote in her article published in Planet Science.
[1:38]The third stage has been shut down for the first time.
[1:34]The second and third propellants have been discarded.
[1:33]The control center is tracking the rocket.
[1:32]The propellant has been discarded.
[1:31]Everything is proceding as planned.
[1:30]The Long March 3B rocket blasts off from the launch pad.
[1:06]24 minutes to go.
[1:00]Where on the moon will Chang’e 3 land?
According to Ouyang Ziyuan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the moon probe would land in the moon’s Sinus Iridum region (Latin for “Bay of Rainbows”). The bay’s selenographic coordinates are 44.1°N, 31.5°W, and it is a plain of basaltic lava that forms a northwestern extension to the Mare Imbrium. It was formed 3.9 billion years ago due to a collision. The plain basin and its surrounding mountains are considered one of the most beautiful features found on the Moon, reminiscent of rainbow arcs. Hence it was given the name “Bay of Rainbows” by 17th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Riccioli.
[0:56]According to the Xichang launch center report, hundreds of visitors flocked to the center to obtain tickets to witness China’s Chang’e 3 lunar probe launch.
There are three types of tickets. One costs 700 yuan per person and offers holders specially reserved seats; a second one costs 500 yuan per person and offers random seats; whereas the third one sells for 400 yuan per person, offering buyers a standing place to witness the launch. Hundreds of visitors have bought tickets and tourist agencies are also bringing more in, one launch staff member stated.
More than 10 villages around the Xichang launch center were evacuated at 11:30 p.m. on December 1, 2013. Some 20,000 more villagers nearby have also been evacuated for safety reasons. According to the latest reports, all villagers are to stay at a primary school’s auditorium within the safe zone and watch movies — today’s treat is Tom Cruise starring in “Mission Impossible.”
[0:45]NASA’s official China account on Weibo posted an image to review the moon landings — every soft-landing on the surface of the moon (manned or unmanned). In addition, NASA conveyed its best wishes for the Chang’e 3 launch and the successful landing of the “local tyrant gold” styled moon rover “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit).
[0:40]The Long March-3B rocket to carry the Chang’e 3 lunar probe is in normal and sound condition.
[0:36]According to the European Space Operations Centre, the probe is expected to descent to the moon surface around mid-day on December 14.
[0:25]@“Ziqi U-KI” from Sina Weibo:
I still remember the launch of Shenzhou when I was 13. I am 21 now, and Chang’e 3 is about to launch tonight. I’ll stay up for it.
[23:35]The range of 2.5 kilometers around Xichang launch center will be cleared and around 20,000 villagers nearby have been evacuated for safety reason.
In addition, as rocket debris will be spread across, theoretically, Guizhou and Hunan provinces following the launch, residents of those areas too will be evacuated.
[23:15]Chang’e 3 lunar probe sees several ‘firsts’
It will be a global first to simultaneously land on the moon and carry out both a patrol and surveillance.
Chang’e 3 will be the first Chinese spacecraft to make a soft landing on the surface of any extraterrestrial body.
Additionally, it will be the first Chinese spacecraft to carry out both a a patrol and surveillance in extraterrestrial territory.
Chang’e 3 will be the first Chinese spacecraft to employ radioisotope heat source technology as well as conduct a two-phase fluid loop.
The lunar probe will mean the first breakthrough in the technologies of multiple-window of cryogenic propellant rockets, narrow launch width and high-precision orbiting.
It will for the first time to study and develop a large-scale Chinese deep-space station and set up a deep-space measurement and control network.
It is the first time a remote control will be used on a lunar probe.
It is the first time a lunar probe will research and build a set of high-level experimental facilities and create a set of advanced experimental methods.
Finally then, it is the world’s first lunar probe to carry out multiple scientific research on the moon.
[22:30]The weather at the launch site for China’s Chang’e 3 lunar probe is favorable.
[22:25]David Alexander, director of Rice University’s space institute, told Xinhua in an interview:
I think it’s fantastic. It has been a long time since human has been on the Moon.
[22:20]Chang’e 3 lunar probe ready to launch
Date: December 2
Launch site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province
Launch vehicle: modified model of the Long March-3B
With its improved design, the modified carrier rocket’s reliability has been increased and its carrying capacity has been boosted by 30 kg.
The new design will allow the Chang’e 3 to take advantage of two daily launch windows for three to four consecutive days.
The new model also features combined guidance technology and real-time video feeds that allow for monitoring of the rocket’s key operations.
Mission description: Chang’e 3 will land on the moon in mid-December, and the rover will separate from the lander to explore areas surrounding the landing spot.
How smooth the moon’s surface is, whether there are deep pits or rocks will have a great impact on the mission.
Why the mission is important?
The mission represents the first time China has attempted a soft landing on a celestial body, and also the first time any lunar soft landing has been carried out since 1976, when other countries suspended exploration.
The lunar program will also see breakthroughs in remote control between the moon and the earth and survival of the rover on the lunar surface.
Four highlights of the Chang’e 3 mission
Chang’e 3 will be launched sometime in December and land on the Sinus Iridium region of the moon. There will be four highlights of the Yutu’s moon landing:
1. It will install an astronomical telescope on the moon.
2. 80 percent of the components and technologies on the moon rover are new.
3. It is part of China’s new deep-space exploration system.
4. Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, is the name for China’s first moon rover, named after the moon goddess’ pet.
Earlier, China initiated a worldwide name competition for its first-ever moon rover. Nearly 650 thousand online voters favored for “Yutu.”
China Post is scheduled to issue a set of stamps called “A Commemoration of China’s first successful moon landing” on Jan. 1, 2014.
Two Yutu models are now on permanent display at the Beijing Planetarium, after being donated by the developer of China’s Chang’e program.
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), launched in 2004, is also known as the “Chang’e Program.” It is set to be completed in three phases: unmanned lunar exploration, a manned expedition on the moon, and the establishment of a moon base.
The first CLEP spacecraft, the unmanned lunar orbiter Chang’e 1, was launched at 18:05 on Oct. 24, 2007. Chang’e 1 landed on the moon on schedule in 2009 after successfully accomplishing all its designated missions.
A second unmanned orbiter, Chang’e 2, was launched successfully at 18:57 on Oct. 1, 2010, is on an extended duty after completing all tasks.
On Sept. 19, 2012, CLEP’s chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan said the program was preparing for Chang’e 3’s “soft landing” in 2013. Chang’e 4 was built to follow on from Chang’e 3, as with Chang’e 2 to Chang’e 1. Chang’e 5 will research and analyze the impact zone of Chang’e 4, and return with a sample from the moon’s surface.
Chang’e 1 is China’s first lunar orbiter, named after the ancient Chinese moon goddess. The spacecraft weighs 2,350 KG, with a dimension of 2000*1720*2200 millimeters. The solar panel measures 18 meters when fully opened. Chang’e 1’s intended service length was one year, but its mission was later extended and the craft operated until March 1, 2009, when it made a controlled landing on the moon’s surface. Chang’e 1’s primary missions included relaying 3-D moon-surface images, analyzing the composition of elements composition and their distribution on the moon’s surface, measuring the thickness of the surface and exploring the space between the earth and the moon.
Chang’e 2 is Chang’e 1’s sister orbiter probe. It has a higher-resolution CCD camera, among other upgraded equipment. Chang’e 2 was launched on Oct. 1, 2010 on the Long March 3-B rocket. Chang’e 2 carried out the world’s first close-range probe of Mars at 16:30:09, on Dec. 13, 2012. It has also become China’s first man-made planet in the solar system. Data from Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center showed that Chang’e 3 is capable of flying 300 million km away from the earth, the longest range of any Chinese spacecraft.
Chang’e 3, a lunar exploration mission from the second phase of CLEP, incorporated a lander and a robotic lunar rover, also known as Yutu, or Jade Rabbit. The Chang’e 3 will carry out China’s first soft landing on the moon and self-propelled lunar exploration, in which the moon rover Yutu will also extend probes into beneath the moon surface. Yutu will roam on the moon for 90 days, and cover an area of five square km. Analysis data from the moon’s surface will be sent directly back to earth.
Infographic: China’s space dream
International lunar exploration
The Cold War-inspired “space race” and “moon race” between the Soviet Union and the United States of America accelerated with a focus on the Moon. This included many scientifically important firsts, such as the first photographs of the then-unseen far side of the Moon in 1959 by the Soviet Union, and culminated with the landing of the first humans on the Moon in 1969, widely seen around the world as one of the pivotal events of the 20th century, and indeed of human history in general.
Facts on the moon
The Moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite and the only astronomical body other than Earth ever visited by human beings. The moon reflects light from the sun and is about 4.6 billion years old.
The moon’s average radius (distance from its center to its surface) is 1,079.6 miles (1,737.4 kilometers), about 27 percent of the radius of Earth.
The moon has a mass (amount of matter) of 8.10 x 1019 tons (7.35 x 1019 metric tons). Its mass in metric tons would be written out as 735 followed by 17 zeroes. Earth is about 81 times that massive. The moon’s density (mass divided by volume) is about 3.34 grams per cubic centimeter, roughly 60 percent of Earth’s density.
Because the moon has less mass than Earth, the force due to gravity at the lunar surface is only about 1/6 of that on Earth.
The average distance from the center of Earth to the center of the moon is 238,897 miles (384,467 kilometers). That distance is growing — but extremely slowly. The moon is moving away from Earth at a speed of about 1 1/2 inches (3.8 centimeters) per year.
The temperature at the lunar equator ranges from extremely low to extremely high — from about -280 degrees F (-173 degrees C) at night to +260 degrees F (+127 degrees C) in the daytime. In some deep craters near the moon’s poles, the temperature is always near -400 degrees F (-240 degrees C).
The moon has no life of any kind. Compared with Earth, it has changed little over billions of years.
A person on Earth looking at the moon with the unaided eye can see light and dark areas on the lunar surface. The light areas are rugged, cratered highlands known as terrae (TEHR ee). The word terrae is Latin for lands. The highlands are the original crust of the moon, shattered and fragmented by the impact of meteoroids, asteroids, and comets. Many craters in the terrae exceed 25 miles (40 kilometers) in diameter. The largest is the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which is 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) in diameter.
The dark areas on the moon are known as maria (MAHR ee uh). The word maria is Latin for seas; its singular is mare (MAHR ee). The term comes from the smoothness of the dark areas and their resemblance to bodies of water. The maria are cratered landscapes that were partly flooded by lava when volcanoes erupted. The lava then froze, forming rock. Since that time, meteoroid impacts have created craters in the maria.
The moon has no substantial atmosphere, but small amounts of certain gases are present above the lunar surface. People sometimes refer to those gases as the lunar atmosphere. This “atmosphere” can also be called an exosphere, defined as a tenuous (low-density) zone of particles surrounding an airless body. Mercury and some asteroids also have an exosphere.