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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:16, July 26, 2006
China outlines objectives for lunar probe project
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Ouyang Ziyuan is a cosmo-chemist, geochemist and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He graduated from the Beijing College of Geology in 1956 and completed his postgraduate study at the Geological Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1961. Ouyang is now a researcher for the Geochemical Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In recent years, in his role as the chief scientist he has helped formulate a list of short and long-term objectives for China's lunar exploration. He was elected a Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1991.

A Moon landing has been a dream of the Chinese nation for thousands of years. Moon exploration would undoubtedly facilitate scientific and technological innovation and development as well as further economic development. It also plays a supporting role in the long-term sustainable development of human society.

Since the Earth's resources are limited, there is a need for a new program to address the long-term energy needs of humanity.

On the Moon, several meters below the surface, there are rare, rich gas atoms. The most interesting of these is helium�C3. Helium-3 has many advantages over tritium, the fuel that is increasingly being used in thermonuclear fusions. It generates more energy and instead of neutrons, the reaction generates high-energy protons, which not only reduces the radioactive damage to reaction devices, but is better for the environment. Unlike tritium, helium-3 is not radioactive. Approximately 100 tons of helium�C3 would be needed annually to meet the world's existing levels of electricity consumption. Scientists estimate that there is enough helium -3 stored in the soil of the Moon to generate electricity for the earth for 10,000 years. Therefore, further study of the helium-3 atom is an essential part of sustainable energy development for the future of the mankind.

Human space activities are roughly divided into three categories. The first of these is satellite activities; the second is manned space missions; and the third is exploration of the solar system and deep space. The satellite applications and manned space flights have a common feature �C they are both low-orbit space activities which use the Earth as their major gravitational field. Based on data collected by satellites and manned space missions, humans have been able to expand space exploration to the wider solar system.

Lunar exploration is the first step as well as the threshold of deep-space exploration. Since 1960, China has followed the lunar missions of foreign countries. On January 23rd, 2004, following decades of study and research, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao approved the Chinese Moon exploration project, at a cost of 1.4 billion yuan.

China outlines objectives for its inaugural Moon exploration project

Firstly, China plans to draw a comprehensive, three-dimensional map of the Moon, filling in the blanks on the existing map, where the north and south poles lie (latitude 70-90 degrees).

To date, five elements on the moon have been analyzed: iron, titanium, uranium, thorium and potassium. China's second objective is to spend a year analyzing another nine elements and will create a spectral image based on the study showing the mineral distribution of the Moon. This will lay the foundation for further analysis of different moon rocks.

Thirdly, China will use microwave radiation technology to measure the temperature of the lunar surface and to understand the characteristics and thickness of the Moon soil �C the first time this will have been done. This will help scientists make an age distribution analysis as well as estimate the distribution and the quantity of helium-3 on the moon's surface.

Finally, China plans to explore a 4 to 40 kilometer area, studying high energy particles in solar cosmic rays and solar wind plasma, observing interaction between solar winds and the Moon, and between the magnetotail and the Moon. This in-depth study and analysis will have important scientific and engineering significance.

The year 2004 was the first year of China's Moon exploration project. Experts completed the design in 2004. This year is crucial. China has finished the initial products. The year 2006 is a decisive year. China is to complete the quality products as the sample products to ensure a successful launch in April 2007.

After it finishes its unmanned Moon exploration, China can begin preparing for its manned Moon exploration and collaborate with other countries to establish a Moon exploration base.

By People's Daily Online

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