September 15, 2013
Not Because It is Easy
image from Xinhuanet News
The last vehicle to make a controlled landing on the Moon was Luna 24 in 1976. The next one should be Chang'e 3 in December 2013. This Chinese mission includes the first soft landing by a nation other than the USA and the ersatz USSR, and the first rover since Luna 21 that travelled 37 km across the floor of Le Monnier in 1973. The Chang'e rover will autonomously explore a distance of about 10 km in western Sinus Iridum. The landing vehicle also carries scientific instruments to study the Moon and an extreme ultraviolet telescope for astronomical observations. The Chinese are justifiably proud of this mission, with a space official stating (according to a Google translation) that it is our first extraterrestrial spacecraft celestial soft landing, the use of a number of new products and technology research, innovation and strong technical complexity extremely difficult, a huge risk, responsibility and glorious mission. Those statements are generally true, especially the huge risk. Based upon the early failures of the USA and USSR in achieving a safe soft landing there are many ways for a mission to fail. Let us hope Chang'e 3 is a glorious mission, and that the planned Chang'e 5 will successfully bring lunar rocks to Earth by the end of this decade. Finally, I must comment that I hope the real Moon isn't as sandy as in the model above for I don't think the rover's wheels would be adequate.
Yesterday's LPOD: Farside 50 - Almost
Tomorrow's LPOD: Wasted Space