China outlines the plans for its next two unmanned lunar probes, with the second targeted as a 2017 sample return mission.


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China outlines its plans for its next two unmanned lunar probes, with the second targeted as a 2017 sample return mission.

Key quote:

The new mission planned for 2017 would mark the third and final phase of China’s robotic lunar exploration program and pave the way for possibly landing an astronaut on the moon after 2020.

As I mentioned last night, the soft landing on Saturday demonstrated they are developing the technology to land a manned vehicle safely on the Moon. To return samples safely would demonstrate they are developing the technology to return that manned vehicle safely as well.

Update: Yutu did not land anywhere near its planned landing location.

China had originally publicized a location in the Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows) — a level area thoroughly surveyed by a previous Chinese mission — as the landing spot. Local media even stated that Chang’e 3 landed there. But Chinese scientists have since confirmed that the spacecraft landed slightly to the east, in the northern part of Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains).

It is unclear whether this was a late change or the result of a technical problem.

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3 comments

  • steve mackelprang

    No real reason to think this, but I have a suspicion that time table is for Western consumption, I suspect they will have a much quicker implementation. Possession is and always has been, nine tenths of the law.

  • Don

    Yeah, they’ll really possess the moon alright. Sheesh. Calm down.

    Why do I have a feeling there is more to the mis-landing then they are letting on. Are we certain it even soft landed?

  • “Are we certain it even soft landed?”

    Yes. The video footage of the landing, from Chang’e 3 itself, is quite definitive. The spacecraft soft landed, and the rover rolled off as planned.

    That the spacecraft landed in a different place than announced could have happened for a number of reasons:

    1. They announced the wrong landing site, either in error or on purpose (as a bit of misdirection).
    2. They decided very late to change the landing site for scientific or engineering reasons.
    3. They had a problem which forced the change.

    They have not explained this in any way, something I would expect from a Soviet-style government. Eventually we will find out, though it might be years.

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