China's Chang'e Missions - to the Moon and Beyond

©China National Space Administration

Chang'e 1 Lunar Map

For the 63rd International Astronautical Congress held in Naples, Italy, Meng Linzhi from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) presented a paper for the Moon Exploration session held on Tuesday 2 October.

The Chang'e-2 satellite is the second lunar exploration mission for China and considered as the forerunner satellite of the Lunar Exploration Programme. This programme features three phrases: lunar orbit, landing on the moon, and sample return.

Phase 1 was successfully completed with the launch of Chang'e-1 in 2007, which explored the lunar surface, Phase 2 is underway involving the lunar orbiter Chang'e-2, launched on 1 October 2010, almost exactly three years after the launch of the first lunar orbiting mission.

It is the forerunner of Chang'e-3, which will land on the Moon with a lunar rover. A main task of Chang'e-2 is to demonstrate the key technologies as much as possible to reduce the risks during the Chang'e-3 moon landing. Chang'e-4 will follow Chang'e-3.
Chang'e-2 tests key techniques: the direct injection into an Earth-moon transfer orbit by a launch, lunar braking, lunar orbit manoeuvres, high-definition imaging and X-band measurement. Alongside these, other new communications and computer techniques are tested.

On 8 June 2011, Chang'e-2 left lunar orbit for the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point, where it will stay until the end of 2013, reaching L2 on 25 August 2011, and becoming the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit. It travelled further than any previous Chinese space probe - 1.5 million kilometres from Earth - and it transmitted its first batch of data from L2 in September 2011.

The success of Chang'e-2 provided an important technical basis for the successful implementation of China's future lunar exploration. After nearly 50 years' space science and engineering practice, the authors say that China already has the capability to carry out deep space exploration beyond the Moon.

Huang Jiangchuan and Rao Wei Meng Linzhi Huang Hao, both of CAST, wrote the original paper.


Special by Scott Hatton for SpaceRef at IAC2012.

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