China launches ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover on its first moon-landing mission

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China's first-ever mission to land a rover on the moon has begun its journey to the lunar frontier.

Riding atop a modified Long March 3B rocket, China's Chang'e 3 moon lander and its rover Yutu headed toward the moon at 1:30 a.m. Monday local time from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country's Sichuan province. It was 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at launch time.

If the probe continues on track, Chang'e 3 will land on the lunar surface by mid-December, becoming the first spacecraft to ease down onto the lunar surface in 37 years. The most recent soft landing on the moon was executed during the former Soviet Union's robotic Luna 24 sample return mission in 1976. [Photos: China's Chang'e 3 Mission Blasts Off]

Shortly after the Chang'e 3 spacecraft separated from its rocket, launch officials declared the liftoff a success.

"The Chang'e probe on its way to the moon, of course, is a symbol of China's national prowess," said Zhang Zhenzhong, director of China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to a translation by state-run CCTV. "Let's all work together … to make more efforts in space exploration and realize the Chinese dream."

Written By: Leonard David
continue to source article at nbcnews.com

20 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by canadian_right:

      Maybe this will kick start the american’space program.

      Exactly what I was thinking with the added ” bonus ” of kick starting the Russians again. Mars then!

    • I think of space programs as indicators of a Nation’s financial surplus. The “heyday” of a country’s space program typically coincides with stability and prosperity. I would not hold my breath waiting for the US to enjoy either stability or prosperity any time soon. I hate to be the harbinger of doom and gloom, but there is a reason China will take over the space/technology/science leadership role, it is the same reason that the Chinese could very soon own most of the US. If they “call the loan” we are in serious hot water.

      In reply to #1 by canadian_right:

      Maybe this will kick start the american’space program.

      • In reply to #6 by crookedshoes:

        I think of space programs as indicators of a Nation’s financial surplus. The “heyday” of a country’s space program typically coincides with stability and prosperity. I would not hold my breath waiting for the US to enjoy either stability or prosperity any time soon. I hate to be the harbinger of…

        ” If they “call the loan” we are in serious hot water.”

        Only to the extent of more loans being granted by the Chinese. I think they would have a collection problem as large as our credit problem.

        • I get it. But, what was the collateral for the loans to begin with? property???? If so, how much of the US land do they already own? Or, is it not that simple. I am smart about the things I am smart about and really really not so smart about stuff like politics and finance.

          In reply to #7 by Neodarwinian:

          In reply to #6 by crookedshoes:

          I think of space programs as indicators of a Nation’s financial surplus. The “heyday” of a country’s space program typically coincides with stability and prosperity. I would not hold my breath waiting for the US to enjoy either stability or prosperity any time soon…

          • In reply to #9 by crookedshoes:

            I get it. But, what was the collateral for the loans to begin with? property???? If so, how much of the US land do they already own? Or, is it not that simple. I am smart about the things I am smart about and really really not so smart about stuff like politics and finance.

            In reply to #7 by Ne…

            No collateral. The Chinese buy Treasury Securities and this intertwines the Chinese so deeply into our economy that dumping these Securities would be as disastrous for them as for us.

            They can by all the land and companies they want to, but I don’t think that will affect the US all that much in the long run. Now, of they stopped buying T-bills then we might have a bit of a problem.

          • I see. I am like Schultzie (Hogan’s Heroes)…. I know nothing!!

            In reply to #10 by Neodarwinian:

            In reply to #9 by crookedshoes:

            I get it. But, what was the collateral for the loans to begin with? property???? If so, how much of the US land do they already own? Or, is it not that simple. I am smart about the things I am smart about and really really not so smart about stuff like politics a…

  1. The idea of mining the moon is impractical – an excuse to justify this exercise in national pride. China is repeating the achievements of the US and USSR of over 40 years ago, and it would be more beneficial if they were to turn their skills and resources to major international scientific missions that are struggling for funding.

    • In reply to #5 by Colin Coleman:

      The idea of mining the moon is impractical – an excuse to justify this exercise in national pride. China is repeating the achievements of the US and USSR of over 40 years ago, and it would be more beneficial if they were to turn their skills and resources to major international scientific missions that are struggling for funding.

      Mining could be a basis for supporting and resourcing Moon-bases in the longer term. In the absence of air resistance, Maglev launch ramps, could provide a propellant-free Solar-powered launch system to orbit or to Earth.
      http://phys.org/news/2012-03-maglev-track-spacecraft-orbit.html

      However, as far as mining for resources for use in space or for return to Earth is concerned mining asteriods or comets, is a much better option – as we discussed here:- http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/11/26/for-profit-asteroid-mining-missions-to-start-in-2016#

      • Thanks for the articles. My point was only that mining the moon is not economically feasible given the abundances of minerals on Earth and the high launch cost. I agree that if launch cost could be reduced by a couple of orders of magnitude that would change the equation, but it won’t happen while we depend on chemical rockets. The rail gun concept has been around for a while, but I am skeptical about magnetically levitating the track given the large currents required. A better long term concept is an asynchronous orbiting tether, with the mass lifted to LEO being compensated by mass falling from the moon. The greatest value of material on the moon is then not its mineral content but its high gravitational potential energy. Of course this type of argument does not resonate with the general public, hence the justification based on mining minerals.

        In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #5 by Colin Coleman:

        • In reply to #14 by Colin Coleman:

          Thanks for the articles. My point was only that mining the moon is not economically feasible given the abundances of minerals on Earth and the high launch cost.

          I think you are limiting your view to returning basic minerals to Earth. I would agree that this is not a good basis for using bulky Lunar materials. Only very high value scarce materials would be worth taking to Earth. – A relatively easy process using a heat shield and parachute.

          However, mining bulk materials for local use on a moon base or for some to use in Lunar orbit, is a different issue.

          I agree that if launch cost could be reduced by a couple of orders of magnitude that would change the equation, but it won’t happen while we depend on chemical rockets.

          This is again assuming that operations start from a base on Earth. Asteroid mining and space based manufacturing with space resourced 3D printing of components are already being planned. This simply eliminates the costly process of launches from Earth.

          There are also various advanced types of electric ion rocket engines under development for use in interplanetary space. See my links from the linked asteroid discussion @8 to VASIMR engines etc.

          The rail gun concept has been around for a while, but I am skeptical about magnetically levitating the track given the large currents required.

          Maglev or rail-guns need no propellant, there is abundant potential solar power on the Moon, various natural slopes, and virtually no atmospheric drag. I would see their use on the Moon as more feasible than from Earth.

          A better long term concept is an asynchronous orbiting tether, with the mass lifted to LEO being compensated by mass falling from the moon.

          I think space elevators from Earth and very long tethers, are going to be beyond the possible performance of materials, (even forms of carbon) but these may be useful on low gravity planetoids or moons.

          The costs of launches from Earth are coming down, with the use of air-breathing hybrid SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engines) and piggyback launches from large aircraft.

          There are also ideas of using beamed energy from the ground to rockets which need propellant, but no fuel. ie powered by ground based microwaves or lasers and preferably launched from mountain tops.

          http://www.technologyreview.com/view/420700/microwave-powered-rocket-ascends-without-fuel/

          http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-02/laser-launched-rockets-could-be-safer-cheaper-and-more-efficient-way-space

          If the rovers can find and map sources of water on the Moon, electric power can easily convert this into hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Similarly using ice in asteroids or comets, avoids energy demands to get out of the gravity well of the Earth or the Moon.

          • In reply to #15 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #14 by Colin Coleman:

            Yes I am limiting my comments to the case of returning minerals to Earth, because that was the argument put forward by the head of the Chinese space program in a recent interview. I think it appeals to the simple view that there are lots of minerals there, so let’s go and get them, without any consideration for the economics. It’s true that small quantities of very high value material could be sent back to Earth quite easily, but the cost of setting up the mining, refining and launch infrastructure on the moon would be prohibitive. Is there really something so valuable there for which there is no alternative on Earth?

            As to the orbital tether concept, this is not a space elevator in the conventional sense. A elevator tether to geosynchronous orbit is clearly infeasible for at least three independent reasons, one of which is that there are no materials with adequate tensile strength. It beats me why people still give the concept any serious consideration. The asynchronous orbiting tether needs to be only a few hundred km long and is feasible with current generation high tensile materials. It lifts objects from the domain of low sub-orbital velocity to LEO, but this extracts energy from the tether which must be replaced by an ion thruster or (even better) by dropping mass from the moon.

            I have some knowledge of laser and microwave based launch concepts, and I don’t think they merit the amount of hype they get. Carrying propellant for acceleration is the underlying problem, even though the energy comes from elsewhere rather than the propellant itself. With microwaves the energy density is too low to achieve adequate acceleration, and even if it weren’t a very large antenna would be required to focus the energy on a small launch vehicle at a significant range.

          • In reply to #16 by Colin Coleman:
            >

            Yes I am limiting my comments to the case of returning minerals to Earth, because that was the argument put forward by the head of the Chinese space program in a recent interview. I think it appeals to the the simple view that there are lots of minerals there, so let’s go and get them, without any consideration for the economics.

            As with the case of asteroid mining, rare earths and platinum are likely targets.

            It’s true that small quantities of very high value material could be sent back to Earth quite easily, but the cost of setting up the mining, refining and launch infrastructure on the moon would be prohibitive.

            As with any major enterprise, initial set-up costs are likely to be high. There are already projects for developing 3D printing in space and using robot units to service and repair satellites, using these printed components and in-space manufactured fuels, in order to reduce costs. Further development of these technologies, could set up mobile robotic mining enterprises.

            Is there really something so valuable there for which there is no alternative on Earth?

            We are running short of platinum and rare earths for the electronics industries. One of the benefits of asteroid mining is that asteroids are small pieces of broken planet, and unlike large melted spherical rocky planets, the heavy elements have not settled deep into an inaccessible hot core. The same would apply to the multitude of meteorites embedded in the impact craters of the Moon.

            If humans are going to be space-faring in the longer term, harvesting space-water for hydrogen/oxygen life-support and fuel, will be a shorter term objective, but in the more distant future, harvesting deuterium from water ice for fusion drives and fusion generators will also feature. In the inner Solar-System, harvesting solar energy to power space based industries, asteroid deflection etc. is also likely.

            It is my view that space-mining from stations with artificial gravity attached to, or in close proximity to, small asteroids or moons, are more viable options than mining bases on the Moon or Mars. That is not to say that extraterrestrial mines and underground structures will not be useful for other purposes.

          • In reply to #15 by Alan4discussion:

            Slightly off-topic Alan but have you read the latest book by Chris Hadfield the Canadian astronaut ? I was really impressed by how physically wrecked he was after coming back from six months at the space station. Even after two hours exercise a day. He definitely wasn’t up to exploring Mars. Of course it’s a solvable problem and maybe 2001 had the solution but definitely something that needs working on.

            Michael

          • In reply to #18 by mmurray:

            Even after two hours exercise a day. He definitely wasn’t up to exploring Mars. Of course it’s a solvable problem and maybe 2001 had the solution but definitely something that needs working on.

            A reasonably large space station habitation module, either in the form of a rotating “doughnut”, or in the form of a long boom with a habitation module on one or both ends, (or with a power unit on one end and a habitation module on the other) – would give artificial gravity. A water filled double skin would give some protection against radiation and micro meteorites.

            http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/01/10/3405165.htm

            “Gravity is also important for health reasons. If you’re living in a weightless condition, the calcium comes out of your bones, making them thinner. Anyone who is staying in space for a long time without artificial gravity needs to do vigorous exercise to avoid this.”

            But while gravity has some big advantages in space, says Page, we shouldn’t expect a rotating space station any time soon.

            “The smaller the space craft is, the faster it has to rotate, so if you’re going to generate gravity, it’s got to be done with a very large spacecraft that spins very slowly. The bigger the disk, the slower you can rotate it.

            “This would avoid having a large gravitational difference between your head and your feet, which would result in blood accumulating at your feet and making you feel light headed.

            A wheel shaped rotating “doughnut” habitation module inside a cave/mine in an asteroid/moon, would give better protection as well as artificial gravity. A metal and water rich asteroid, should provide plenty of materials.

            The long boom format would also probably be good for interplanetary craft – accelerating at one G when powered, and rotating beam over apex, to provide artificial gravity when drifting with the rocket engines off, or when parked in an orbit. The habitation module could swivel 180° when changing from powered to un-powered modes.

    • In reply to #5 by Colin Coleman:
      >

      China is repeating the achievements of the US and USSR of over 40 years ago, and it would be more beneficial if they were to turn their skills and resources to major international scientific missions that are struggling for funding.

      This is not an either or issue! China is leading the way on manufacturing green energy technology and on cleaner Nuclear power generation.

      http://www.itheo.org/thorium-energy-conference-2012

      ThEC12 in Shanghai

      The world is waking up to the huge potential of Thorium to solve the looming energy crisis; ThEC12 in Shanghai was the event of the year for everyone with an interest in the future of Thorium Energy and its many related fields. China is taking the lead in exploring fresh approaches to nuclear fission in its quest for sustainable, environment-responsible energy that can be delivered reliably and in quantity.

  2. China says it has successfully landed a craft carrying a robotic rover on the surface of the Moon, a major step in its programme of space exploration. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25356603
    >

    On Saturday afternoon (GMT), a landing module underwent a powered descent, using thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years.

    Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as “Jade Rabbit”.

    The touchdown took place on a flat plain called the Bay of Rainbows.

    The Chang’e-3 mission launched on a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket on 1 December from Xichang in the country’s south.

    State television showed pictures of the moon’s surface as the Chang’e 3 lander touched down.

    There will be news of the rover’s progress later today.

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