China Readies Its Ambitious Lunar Mission, as NASA's LADEE Heads for the Moon
September 8, 2013 • 12:30PM

From Sept. 3-6, the First Beijing International Forum on Lunar and Deep-Space Exploration was held, giving Chinese scientists an opportunity to detail their challenging Chang'e-3 mission, scheduled for launch at the end of this year. China Daily reported that the father of China's lunar exploration program, Ouyang Ziyuan, described this first Chinese plan to land a rover on the lunar surface, and the unique scientific instruments that will extend our knowledge of our nearest neighbor and the farthest galaxies. This will be China's first attempt at a soft landing on the Moon.

In addition to a variety of cameras, radar attached to the bottom of the rover will be able to see 100-200 meters beneath the surface, which is unprecedented. Previous lunar missions have indicated the presence of water ice beneath the surface. The lunar lander carries an extreme ultraviolet camera, which will be used for the first time, to monitor changes in the Earth's plasmasphere. And Chang-e-3 will not only make discoveries about the Moon, Ouyang explained; a near-ultraviolet astronomical telescope will observe the stars, the galaxy, and the universe from the Moon.

According to China Daily, Ouyang said that scientific goals of Solar System exploration include searching for extraterrestrial life, understanding the Earth by exploring other planetary bodies, investigating the impact on Earth of solar activity and asteroid strikes, searching for new energy and other resources, and preparing for mankind's future development.

In about a month, NASA's LADEE spacecraft will reach the Moon, studying its tenuous atmosphere, for about 100 days. It is possible that from its low lunar orbit, it might spot Chang'e-3 sitting on the surface.