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China Reveals First Chang’e-2 Photos! November 10, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chang'e, Chang'e-2, China, selenography, Sinus Iridium (Bay of Rainbows), Wen Jiabao , 5comments

China has released the first photos from it’s recently-launched Chang’e-2 lunar orbiter!

Released with some fanfare (that’s the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, there. [Editor’s note: originally had Jiabao as the “head of state”; that would actually be the president, Hu Jintao, not the premier, Jiabao]), the images get more or less straight to the point: they’re of the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridium), which China has slated to be the potential landing location of it’s Chang’e-3 rover mission.

The images include a 3-D map, and have a resolution of ~1.3 meters (for comparison, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has resolution up to 1 m [PDF]).

Check out the official Chinese release page for all the images :) (A rough translation notes the last image is labeled as “antarctic”, so it’s unclear if that’s also a Bay of Rainbows crater, or one near the lunar south pole.)

China Launches Chang’e-2 Lunar Orbiter; ‘Asian Space Race’ in Full Swing? October 2, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Asian Space Race, Chang'e, Chang'e-2, China , 1 comment so far

China has launched their secondo lunar orbiter, the Chang’e-2!

Coming a year and a half after the end of the successful Chang’e-1 orbiter mission, China’s new orbiter adds muscle as the CNSA scouts future landing sites, including the Bay of Rainbows.

While similar to the Chang’e-1, this mission will be more “sophisticated“:

“We started assembling Chang’e 2 at the end of 2008. The equipment and payloads on the satellite are combination of the old, the renovated and the new. This has raised challenges for us to ensure all equipment reaches the same standard.”- Tai Ping, ‘Vice Chief Director Chang’e Satellite System’,”New Scientific Targets for Chang’e-2“, People’s Daily Online

Those landing sites the orbiter will be scouting are for the Chang’e-3 lander, set for touchdown in 2013. Also set for landing in 2013 is the Indian-Russian Chandrayaan-2, not to mention landers from the Google Lunar X PRIZE…it’ll be busy up there come the end of ’13! :)

This brings up an interesting assertion by the Wall Street Journal last week—that this is the throes of an “Asian Space Race”, with China, India and Japan beginning to duke it out.

The idea of a new, regional ‘race’ could be backed up by the recent announcement that India’s Chandrayaan-2 will have all Indian payloads, contrasted with its predecessor, which carried (very successful) international payloads.

Regardless, the Chinese program is rolling along nicely, and it should be fun to watch as the Chang’e-2 starts to deliver results and India’s Chandrayaan-2 warms up.

For a neat video from Chinese media on the mission, click here, and here’s video of the launch itself:

Updates on China: Rock Lab; International Lunar Network Still Rolling? March 16, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chang'e, China, International Lunar Network (ILN) , add a comment

Space.com has an article up about Chinese plans for a lunar rock receiving lab, as well as general updates on the Chinese program.

Presenting at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), Chinese experts noted plans for their processing center, which sounds roughly equivalent to NASA’s famed Lunar Receiving Laboratory. China currently plans to have the Chang’e-3 lander down in 2013, with  the Chang’e-4 rock hauler touching down in 2017 and the Chang’e-2 luanr orbiter launching later this year.

There’s an almost aside quote towards the end of the article that caught my attention:

“”In addition they have started participating in discussions for the International Lunar Network (ILN) mission…” – Ray Arvidson, Washington University Professor

Details on that ILN have been slim so far, but to see a current mention after NASA’s cancellation of Constellation is interesting. A NASA site says about the project:

“NASA will undertake landed lunar missions and is architecting a conceptual “global lunar network” as a backbone of its envisioned robotic surface activities.  This concept, called the International Lunar Net-work (ILN), aims to provide an organizing theme for all landed science missions in the 2010s by involving each landed station as a node in a geophysical network.” –NASA Science Mission Site, ILN

Clearly, with NASA taking a step back, someone else would likely step in to ‘architect’ the continuation of the network…and from that quote about the recent Chinese “discussions” about it, it sounds like someone is. Guess international lunar development will roll on, with or without NASA, at just the same pace :)

Orbiting Atlas #1!: Sinus Iridum (The Bay of Rainbows) December 15, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chang'e, China, Google Moon, Orbiting Atlas, selenography , 2comments

Welcome to my brand new weekly feature—Orbiting Atlas! Each Monday, I’ll break out my lunar globe and trek to a different selenographic point of interest, giving you a tour of each location’s features, history, and potential :)

The first entry gets the honor for being in the news recently…so without further ado:

Sinus Iridum—The Bay of Rainbows

China announced a few weeks ago that the destination for it’s first lunar rover (and mission of any kind on the surface), Chang’e-3, will be Sinus Iridum. NASA and private enterprise have focused more on the solar-soaked South Pole and helium-3-happy Mare Tranquillitatis, so Sinus Iridum is an interesting choice, and something of a departure.

What about it may have caught China’s eye? Let’s look at the details…

The circular “Bay”—given its name by Italian astronomer Giovanni Riccioli–is ringed by the Montes Jura, with the cape-like Promontorium Laplace jutting out along the northeast. The Bay has a diameter of ~149 miles, and lays at the northwest corner of the large, western plain Mare Imbrium, about 1,225 miles northwest of the Apollo 11 landing site and 620 miles northwest of the Apollo 15 site.

Mare Imbrium’s lava plains are nearly flat, extending into Sinus Iridum (once a crater, with the southeast wall having been eliminated in an Imbrium event). These plains are prime territory for helium-3, and that stretch where there was once the southeastern wall may make for a revealing geological study.

It’s figured there’s a large amount of helium-3 on the Moon, but the distribution is unknown—so by scouting out a different mare, China could dig up valuable information on a region not already targeted for ‘gold rush’. Perhaps we’ll see a private company follow the Chinese lead, and scope it out for themselves…

Sinus Imbrium was a location filmed in 2007 by Japan’s orbiter, Kaguya, and it’s HDTV camera. Check out the amazing video below (and also be sure to explore the Bay in Google Earth 5.0’s spiffy Moon view!):


Check back next week, and every monday, for more selenographic exploration :)

China Announces Chang'e-2 Launch Date and Chang'e-3 Lander Details! November 30, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chang'e, China, lander , 2comments

The China Daily has reported that China’s lunar program has set the launch date for it’s second lunar orbiter—the Chang’e-2—as well as announced more details of it’s Chang’e-3 lunar lander mission:

“[The Chang’e-2] will orbit 100 km closer to the moon and be equipped with better facilities. We expect to acquire more scientific data about the moon with increased accuracy.” -Ye Peijian, chief designer of the Chang’e-1(“China to take next leap with moon probe“, The China Daily)

The upgraded Change-2 (originally designed as simply a backup for the Chang’e-1) will launch in October 2010.

Meanwhile, they also announced the Chang’e-3 lander’s destination: it will touch down “before 2013” in the Sinus Iridum—the ‘Bay of Rainbows’.

The article also notes the Chinese desire to explore resources on the lunar surface—which of course means helium-3.

The selection of the Sinus Iridum is interesting, then—a potential harvesting hotspot? I’ll have more on the location later this week as I get my new weekly selenography series kicked into gear, so check back for that :)

China's Chang'e-1 Lunar Orbiter Impacts Moon, Ending 2007 Mission March 1, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Base Race, Chang'e, China , add a comment

Diagram of the impact from China Daily

Today at around 4:13pm Beijing time, China’s 2007-launched Chang’e-1 lunar orbiter ended its mission with a controlled impact on the lunar surface (meant as both a disposal and a test descent for future, lander missions).

The Chang’e-1, which produced notable imagery (including a complete map image of the lunar surface—click here for a humongous file of that from SpaceRef), is the first of three stages of the Chang’e program–the second phase is a rover that will land on the lunar surface and collect samples, with the third stage (~2017) being a lunar rover that will bring/launch the mineral samples back to Earth.

I’ve embedded below a video highlighting all three stages of the Chang’e program. The video has a lot of spectacular rendered imagery, some of the best space-related animation I’ve seen; check it out:

Chandrayaan-1 Payload Spotlight #1: Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) November 9, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chandrayaan-1, Chandrayaan-1 Payload Features, Chang'e, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organization, Kaguya, Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA, selenography , add a comment

Today is the first in a series of features on each of India‘s recently-launched Chandrayaan-1‘s scientific payloads.

The Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter (which just Saturday reached lunar orbit) has 11 scientific instruments onboard to complete an array of measurements: five Indian instruments, and six from other nations and organizations (including the ESA and NASA). Japan and China launched similar missions last year, but not with foreign instruments onboard.
This chart below, from the ISRO, shows what types of ‘coverage’ the payloads as a unit have:
As I cover each of the eleven payloads in individual posts over the next few weeks, I’m going to alternate between the Indian and foreign payloads.

Without further ado, here’s your spotlight on the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC).

Terrain Mapping Camera

An Indian instrument, the first payload being featured here was also the first one to be tested.

It’s mostly as it sounds: a high-resolution camera that can take black and white photographs of the lunar surface (with a 5m spatial resolution–“the ability to distinguish between two closely spaced objects on an image“–in 20km swaths[PDF] ), with the intent to map the entire topography of the moon (including the dark side and the poles) at that 5m resolution; creating the most high-resolution, detailed map of the lunar surface to date. Such maps exist of Mars, but not of the Moon.

NASA’s Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission set for next year will have similar, if more powerful, camera and mapping systems. These kinds of maps will clearly be useful for the planning stages of the eventual lunar colonies and for other efforts.

The power of the TMC could well be enough to finally settle one thing for NASA ahead of time, though: it could photograph the Apollo and other NASA craft on the Moon’s surface, hopefully putting all those conspiracy theories to rest. :)

Here’s a picture from the ISRO of the TMC itself:

And, last but not least, one of the test images the camera took of Earth (high resolution here):

For every technical detail you ever wanted to know about the TMC, see this PDF.

Check back within the next couple of days for the next feature, on one of the Chandrayaan-1’s foreign payloads, as well as for any other updates on the moon mission’s progress that may come along :)

Picture of the Week: Festival Coming Soon October 5, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in : Chang'e, China, Helium-3, Mythology, Picture of the Week , add a comment

That is that first Chinese photo of the Moon, taken by their Chang’e-1 (嫦娥一号) Lunar orbiter craft last year, as part of an imaging/exploration mission (including for concentrations of helium-3).

Check out this really interesting look from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) at the Chang’e-1 program and its goals, from the Chang’e project leader, Luan Enjie. He’s exceptionally well-spoken– here’s a great interview where he talks about his take on the differences from this space race (that I refer to as the “Base Race”) and the space rae of the 1950’s and 60’s.

The Chang’e program is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, who (notably) only lives on the moon.

“The U.S. is the leader in deep space exploration.”
-Luan Enjie, opening statement of his description of the Chang’e-1 program

The way the Chinese space program has been rolling along in the past year, I think we could be seeing a ‘chang’e’ to that fact in the very near future ;)