Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Chinese Tortoise

Not a new species; a description of the robust and long-term space program that China is quietly executing. One that means that the next human to land on the Moon will speak Mandarin - as will the first Lunar colonists.

From Space Daily :
Subsequently, China announced plans to launch the back-up orbiter on an independent mission, to expand on the discoveries of Chang'e 1.

The new mission was dubbed Chang'e 2. Its launch on China's national day (October 1) went smoothly. If the performance of the first mission is any guide, we can expect a satisfying set of outcomes from this orbiter over the course of its six-month mission.

The numerical designations of the landers underwent a short-term reshuffle. The rover-lander was now dubbed Chang'e 3 and the sample-return mission was Chang'e 4.

But there seem to be more missions planned than this. Evidence in the Chinese media increasingly supports the concept that China plans at least four lunar landers.

In an earlier article this year (China's Lunar Twins, SpaceDaily August 19, 2010), I drew attention to a small fact table published in the Global Times, a state-run newspaper aimed at an international audience. The table spoke of Chang'e 3 and 4 as being part of the second stage, or "landing" missions and Chang'e 5 and 6 as the third stage, or "returning".
U suspect we may be seeing a pattern here, a template: build two of each, so if the first, conservative, mission fails, the second has a good chance of meeting the minimal requirements. And if the first succeeds, the second can be a little more adventurous, stretching the envelope. The chance of one failure may be one in ten; but the chance of two, one in one hundred.

Chang'e 2 will make a very close lunar approach, and directly to lunar orbit instead of a transfer from geosynchronous orbit first. In this close approach, it will take photos to determine the best landing sites, in the Bay of Rainbows.

From Xinhua
XICHANG, Sichuan, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- If lunar satellite Chang'e-2 sends back high-resolution photos of the Bay of Rainbows, the mission can be deemed a complete success, said the chief designer of China's lunar exploration program Friday.

Wu Weiren said Chang'e-2 would take high-resolution photos of the moon's Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang'e-3.

Wu said four to five areas had been chosen for a landing ground for Chang'e-3, but the Bay of Rainbows would be the first choice.

"The geological structure in this area is diverse, so a probe there would have greater scientific value," he said.

"Other places on the moon have already been landed on, so we want to choose one that has not been explored before," he said.

"Previously, most lunar programs landed around the equator of the moon, an area easier for monitoring and control maneuvers, but Chang'e-3 will take on greater challenges."

The Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridium, is located at about 43 degrees north latitude and 31 west longitude with a width of 300 kilometers.
Some remarks in Space Daily hint at the future:
"The most fundamental task for human beings' space exploration is to research on human origins and find a way for mankind to live and develop sustainably," said Qian Weiping, chief designer of the Chang'e-2 mission's tracking and control system.
Chang'e-2 is China's first unmanned spacecraft to be boosted from the launch site directly to the earth-moon transfer orbit, vastly reducing the journey time from that of its predecessor, Chang'e-1.

To acquire more detailed moon data, Chang'e-2 will enter a lower lunar orbit about 100 km above the surface, compared with the 200-km altitude of Chang'e-1, according to the control center.

Qian pointed out that China's pursuit of lunar probes and manned space flights was more out of a sense of responsibility than the need to follow in the footsteps of other countries.

"Once our mind is made up, we will do it no matter how many years later," Qian said. "However, we can never go beyond scientific rules and find a shortcut."

"What we're doing now is what some others already did 40 years ago. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we're lagging behind by 40 years," Qian said, adding that the country's levels of telecommunication, networks and scientific understanding, based on the progress in science and technology, were much more advanced than what they were decades ago.

"And we will shorten the gap fast," he added.
Qian said that China's space talents were outstanding and young. The average age of the design team for the country's manned project and lunar probe project was just a little over 30 years old, he added.
This isn't a space exploration program for prestige purposes.

It's about sustainability.
It's about the long term.
It involves a commitment.
It refuses to take short cuts to meet artificial deadlines.

All the things that are lacking in the US space program.

As for the Chinese? They're right on schedule.

1 comment:

wreckage said...

But what if we see a major Chinese economic crash in the next 2-3 years?