By Yang Jian | 2012-3-6 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
CHINA will launch its third lunar probe, the Chang'e-3, next year to land on the moon and release the country's first moon rover to patrol the lunar surface.
The Chang'e-3 will be the first Chinese space probe to have legs to ensure a soft landing on moon, according to Ye Peijian, chief designer of the Chang'e-1, the country's first moon probe, and chief commander of the Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 missions.
"The probe will take more scientific equipment than its predecessors mainly to detect, collect and analyze samples on the moon," Ye said yesterday.
The Chang'e-3 will also observe space from the lunar surface as the lack of atmosphere allows better viewing than from Earth, he said.
Ye did not say what the Chang'e-3 would look like, but it would by quite different from the country's two previous probes.
The moon's Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, is the first choice of landing area for the Chang'e-3, Ye said, but another four sites have been earmarked as backups.
The rover will patrol the surface for at least three months with the 100-kilogram vehicle being controlled by scientists on Earth, Ye said.
"It will be the most difficult part of the mission as the rover must avoid dropping into big holes on the moon and climb over some small pits and rocks," he said.
Shanghai showcased a moon rover model, the MR-3, in 2008, mainly designed by the Shanghai Academy of Aerospace Industry, but it is unclear whether this will be the rover taken to the moon by Chang'e-3.
The rover will have an expandable solar power plate to absorb the sun's energy during the day and draw back at night to wrap around the equipment to protect it from temperatures of minus 170 degrees Celsius.
Ye said the public would be asked to name the rover but gave no further details. A previous report said it would be called Zhonghua, meaning China.
Russia sent the world's first rover to the moon in 1970 but it lost contact after traveling for just 10 kilometers.
The United States sent its first rover in 1971 with the Apollo 15 mission, two years after it landed the first men on the moon.