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China to launch moon-landing orbiter in 2013

(Xinhua)

09:24, March 06, 2012

BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- China's third lunar probe, Chang'e-3, is expected to be launched next year and conduct a moon landing and lunar explorations, its designer said.

Different from the previous two orbiters, Chang'e-3 has "legs" to support the spacecraft in landing, said Ye Peijian, chief commander of Chang'e-3 at China Academy of Space Technology.

The orbiter will carry a lunar rover and other instruments for territory surveys, living conditions assessment, and space observations, Ye, a member of China's top political advisory body.

The 100-kg lunar rover, China's first such device, is designed to operate on the moon for over three consecutive months, Ye said on the sidelines of the advisory body's current annual session.

It must be capable of avoiding large craters and climbing through smaller ones, Ye said. An advanced recognition and navigation system will be installed, and a telecommunications system will allow scientists to control the rover from Earth.

Moreover, the rover will have to endure energy the frigid and prolonged lunar night, which is as long as seven solar days and can see temperatures drop below minus 170 degrees Celsius.

To solve the problem, Ye said they have designed solar wings that can stretch out to collect sunlight in the daytime and shield the equipment at night.

"We have made breakthroughs in all these fields," Ye said, predicting the launch to be scheduled in 2013.

The launch of Chang'e-3 and Chang'e-4 is part of the second step of China's three-phrase lunar probe projects of orbiting, landing and returning.

China launched the Chang'e-1 in 2007 and the Chang'e-2 2010. The first probe retrieved a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second one created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium.

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