A senior scientist from China's lunar exploration program has revealed more details about the Chang'e-3 satellite, which will be launched in 2013, and China's plans to explore Mars.
"We have done many successful experiments to achieve the soft landing, which is a mission of Chang'e-3 that differs from Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2," Ouyang Ziyuan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and also the chief scientist of China's lunar orbiter project Chang'e series, said at a conference of the Chinese Society of Astronautics.
Chang'e-3 will land on the Moon and the unmanned lunar rover will be equipped with an atomic energy battery that can keep the rover running for 30 years, according to Ouyang. "We also solved the problem of the large temperature difference on the Moon through high-end technology."
Also for the first time, the satellite will explore the surface and geological structure of the Moon and advanced equipment will be used to observe the plasmasphere above the earth, says Ouyang, noting that the first-hand materials retrieved by Chang'e-3 will greatly push forward space science, physics and astronomy.
"We have to explore the Moon and upgrade our technology level at the same time, or we will lose our say in international space exploration as all countries are working on this. First come first served," Ouyang adds, using the U.S. Apollo project as an example.
Ouyang says that project has made the U.S. a world leader in the field of high technology and China's lunar exploration will make no less of a contribution.
He did not give a detailed timetable of when the manned satellite will make its journey to the Moon, but did say that after 2017, when all the crucial technological problems have been solved, China will be able to carry out a manned Moon landing.
At the same time, China will not stop exploring other important planets like Mars. "NASA's Curiosity is quite well-designed, but China will have different goals and methods from the U.S.," Ouyang says.
The Curiosity has found traces of methane and is trying to determine whether it comes from a living creature. Ouyang says that Chinese scientists have started to develop a machine that can distinguish methane produced from living creatures from those produced by non-living things.
Since the 1990s, a total of nine lunar probes have been launched into space, two from China (including the newly launched Chang'e-2 satellite), three from the U.S., one from Europe, two from Japan, and one from India, Xinhua reported.