By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Aerospace
A top Chinese official has confirmed that the world's most populous nation plans to send robots to the moon.
A top Chinese official has confirmed that the world's most populous nation plans to send robots to the moon.
Ziyuan Ouyang, chief scientist of the Chinese lunar exploration program, made the announcement at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), held in Shanghai. The missions, scheduled for launch in 2013 and 2017, will serve as a tune up for a more challenging goal: putting a man on the moon by 2025.
"But why?" you ask. Well, beyond obvious bragging rights, the China National Space Administration's ambitious foray into lunar exploration is part of a grander scheme to exploit the moon's vast iron reserves and its abundance of Helium-3, a rare but heavily sought-after fuel for nuclear fusion plants.
This elaborate operation to mine the moon for these coveted natural resources was set in motion back in 2007 when the agency launched into space its first lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 (named after the moon goddess of Chinese folklore) to scan the landscape and produce a detailed 3-D map of the moon's surface. This was followed in 2010 by the successful launch of another probe, Chang'e-2, which was equipped with a higher-resolution camera and orbited at an even closer distance of 100 kilometers. The data is being used to pinpoint an ideal landing spot for a rover.
Ouyang says it's been decided that Chang'e-3's spacecraft, which includes an unmanned lunar lander and autonomous lunar rover, will be sent to explore the Sinus Iridium region. Equipped with a solar-powered battery, sensors, cameras, x-ray and infrared spectrometers, as well as a radar, the robots will navigate and explore the terrain. The rover will be the first to launch, while the lander will be sent later to drill, conduct experiments and collect samples.
But if past interplanetary unmanned missions are any indication, China's engineers have their work cut out for them. IEEE Spectrum, which hosted the event, explains in detail the kinds of challenges the researchers are facing:
One of the (many) tricky parts of operating on the moon is designing a rover that can stay alive during the lunar night, which is a half-month long, making solar power an impracticality. To help keep itself alive, the Chinese rover will have a supplementary nuclear battery powered by plutonium 238, which will give the rover a lifespan of 30 years, although its mission life will be only three months. This is the same type of radioisotope thermoelectric generator system (RTG) being used on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
And when it comes to colonizing the moon, other nations have their own ideas, too. Japan hopes to have a moon base by 2030. India is thinking the same thing. Russia and the European Space Agency are targeting an earlier date: 2025.
In the U.S., however, the timeline for a return to the moon is up in the air now that NASA's Constellation Program has since been canceled due to budget constraints.
Image: slide from Chinese lunar exploration program presentation / IEEE Spectrum
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May 9, 2011
To me its great that at least some countrie's see the benifits of reaching for the stars. For too long we have been listening to the endless non promises from NASA. Would it not be a sight if India, Japan and China co-operated long enough, to build a moon base, and put man on the moon. And a reusable space craft would be double plus for China. What is the U.S.A. doing to give the masses faith in any space system.
Does anyone really believe that China can go to the moon, mine iron, bring it back to Earth and sell it? There is more iron on Earth than we can use, and it therefore sells for a few cents a pound. Space transport costs tens of thousands of dollars per pound, and is not reliable, it's just not worth it. Even He3 isn't valuable enough to pay for space transport. So, it's more likely not meant to come back to Earth. Perhaps the Chinese are preparing to visit the cosmos?
"now retired people collecting a fraction of what they paid into SS. " Based on known averages, the average person will collect almost double what they actually paid into the SS system. Since the money never went into an interest bearing trust as most people assume, the SS fund it will go broke if something is not fixed.
The arrival of fusion energy will signal an end to terrestrial conflict, for it will power us to our destiny beyond the solar system. If indeed there are, as reported, potentially millions of tons of helium-3 locked within the soil of the moon, wouldn't it be more cost effective to locate our base for exploration there? It would seem to be more cost effective than attempting to transport the raw material back to earth where the cost alone of escaping our gravity is amost prohibitive.
Hi, we are now 7th on the technlogy leadership of the world. We have no money for NASA to go to the moon. I build custom computers for NASA, no sales in 2 years, no money. We have killed 50 million young people already, so what is our future? A bunch of retired people collecting social security which will go bust in 2037 last I heard. 50 million less tax payers. The USA has shot it self in both feet and will not survive until it becomes morally correct. God will not keep a country prosperous unless they follow his lead and laws. That's why it's necessary to increase immigration of young people. Hope its not to late! Time to return to family values God's way. No more abortions unless to save mother and stop condoning homosexuality.
Bush dealt with a out of control Liberal Congress, that is where the problems came from. Now with a lib in the Whitehouse and majority in the Senate, things will not turn around until you numb nuts quit voting for the Socialist. Yes, looks like we will buy Helium-3 from China through the WalMart outlet and fuel from Brazil, while we become more dependent on foriegn trade to substain us.
What China needs most... is a place to send their people, to be remanufactured for the good of their state, and then brought back, to augment their plastic packaged goods... and be so proudly distributed world wide, as SG Lunar 1. ("Soylent Green... is People!")
Mine the moon for iron? The market price for steel is less than 50?? a pound. Helium-3 fuel for fusion power plants? Sure, but if China - or anyone else - had fusion power plants already, the subject matter of SmartPlanet - and lots of other media - would be very different from what it is. The bottom line here is that years from now, China will land a robotic explorer on the moon something like what the USA landed on Mars years ago.
I certainly have my issues with the Obama I voted for - compared to the one in the White House, but only someone with severe critical thinking disabilities would think that the previous Bush administration wasn't responsible for wrecking the economy and the subsequent need for the current budget cuts. Clearly the housing bubble was built and imploded under Bush (look at any housing price chart) - which is at the center of the current debt (housing asset devaluation) crisis. Besides any analysis of China would show you they have some economic issues of their own. The most significant one being their in ability to adequately feed and cloth their 2 billion citizens (and keeping social order) now that their primary markets for goods is declining - that would be the US and the EU. In reality both China and India's prosperity is an extension of the US debt bubble and it is very doubtful that this bubble is sustainable without a prosperous US and European economy. One lunar rover does not a sustainable space exploration program make.
There is no "simple" math when you're talking about this. There are complex actuarial calculations involved. Not every retired person will live to collect all of what they paid into the system. If the economy improves and there are the nmore workers paying into the system that also affect the calculation. You are [finally] correct in the statement that SS requires being fixed. That is the OBVIOUS statement.
You might consider that those computers you built (past tense) for NASA were paid for out of the tax dollars paid for in previous years by all of those now retired people collecting a fraction of what they paid into SS. You might also consider that one of the largest cash reserves in the US still surviving are - the savings in the bank accounts of retired people. The largest single consistent voter block in the US - are older people. I suggest that you find other solutions to Bush economic collapse - than ripping them off. Personally, have you considered focusing more on finding new markets for your computer skills and less on narrow minded social agenda marketing campaigns that only benefit your religious affiliation. You might also want to consider that it was the Moral Majority - the religious conservative right that brought Bush into office - twice, and it was these religious conservatives' lack of judgment in selecting an honest (9 billion in cash unaccounted for in Iraq under Bush) qualified president with basic leadership skills ("Mission Accomplished" Bush 2003) - that ultimately led to economic collapse we are currently in. Thank you, but I have had enough focus on peoples opinions as to what other's family values ought to be personally and as an election criteria. I would much prefer some better informed voters who looked critically at a candidates history of honesty and clear leadership success in the production of something of substance - and not just time served in the whore house we call US professional politics - where candidates are clearly for sale to the highest paying corporate john. Of course that means about 95+% of current US politicians couldn't make the cut. Just saying that according to Standard and Poors the avg. US corporate CEOs made 11.4 million in 2010. Buying the favor of a US president that makes only 400K or key decision makers in his administration must seem like expense account chicken feed to big multi-national corporations. Finally something both the faithful and the agnostics can agree on - God helps those that help themselves.
The reason we have a huge deficit and can't afford the luxury of space exploration is the unprecedented lowering of taxes while starting two wars. Never in US history have we started a war and lowered taxes!
GWB had a majority republican congress for the first 8 years; are these the liberals you are talking about? Partisanship aside, we need both parties and all spectrum of political philosophies to work together and move forward if we are going to compete with the Chinese, Indians and other nations to explore and colonize space. Or we can do the 2 step party dance that goes "a step to the right followed by a step to the left, repeat ad nauseum"
I think the Chinese will find it easier to cloth their people than to clothe them - machines can turn out cloth lickety-split while clothes require sweat-shops - available throughout the 3rd world.
As of yet there is no international treaty that specifically addresses mining the moon. There is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which says the moon is the "common heritage of mankind" and that no nation can claim it as sovereign territory. There was a later Moon Treaty which no spacefaring nation has signed. I suppose the first missions to mine the moon will be small enough to be classified research missions, but there will obviously have to be a new treaty before major mining operations are allowed. The truth is that if the US or China want to start major mining operations, who is going to stop them? It would have to get really valuable before it's worth going to war over.
@hatesidiots However, blaming either party does not work except to get the minority party back into being a majority. This is the 2 party 2 step that I'd like to change to something else like a tango (takes 2 to ...)
GWB was only in office for 8 years. The Democrats controlled the Senate for 4 years and the House for 2 years. They controlled both houses in 2007 and 2008 when the economy blewup.
It's not disagreeing with Bush comment, it's failing to offer a basis for it. Clearly you are an able thinker. Critical thinking and thinking are two different things. Good news - critical thinking skills are largely a purposefully acquired ability, though admittedly not very widely practiced. Developing them and using them, doesn't make me or anyone else arrogant, just better informed by having a factual basis for an opinion. The housing inflation, credit default swap/mortgage bundling scams and the economic crisis under the Bush administration as demonstrated by house price inflation 2000-2007 isn't really debatable. It's demonstrable historical and mathematical fact now. We can point to many other minor extenuating factors from previous administrations - but nothing takes the responsibility and or the cause-and-affect of the housing bubble timing from the Bush administration. Bush was responsible for the collapse. For the recovery - Bush a little, and Obama timeline wise - is more responsible for any subsequent recovery (or not) - if there is going to be a sustained one. Frankly, the lack of real job growth, significant manufacturing increases, or increases in manufacturing product diversity and lack of motivation to encourage business in the US under Obama makes me highly doubtful of his administration abilities to produce a sustained recovery. I see little difference between Obama and Bush - other than they are/were owned by some different corporate interests. Bush - oil and defense and Obama health care and defense.
I agree a majority of the mortgage mess rest with Bush although the roots go back to Carter. But note: We are 2 years removed from the finacial melt down and none of the under lying causes of the mortgage mess have been fixed. Fanny and Freddie are still buying high risk mortgages from banks even as they bleed taxpayer money. Programs intended to allow refinancing of people underwater on their mortgages at better rates are being used to bring back the "finance your house to pay off bills and spend more" mentality that got us in this mess. The fed rules that allowed and even encouraged banks to lend with little or no income verification have not been changed. Banks have tightened their standards, but the old rules are still there for them to legally return to the practices that got us into this mess. That state of affairs is entirly on Obama.