Monday, January 09, 2017

"Good Night, Moon"

The waxing gibbous

10.8 days old

82.9 percent lit

January 3, 2017
By Paul D. Spudis
At the end of 2016, (click here) China released a paper describing the nation’s very successful year in space, including an outline of their upcoming and future plans and intentions. Though well underway, China’s space accomplishments and stated plans continue to fly over the heads of many who continue to dismissively call Chinese lunar efforts “pointless.” While China continues to collect data from their 2013 Chang’E 3 lunar lander, this new report discusses two new Chang’E missions to the Moon—a lander/rover to be sent to the far side and another lander to collect samples of the lunar surface’s near side....
The Chang’E-3 lander spacecraft on the Moon. The two upcoming lunar missions will probably use landers similar to this one.

...Why does China see value in a mission to the far side of the Moon? And why seek and return lunar samples when there are already ~380 kilograms of lunar material returned by the Apollo and Luna missions (not to mention an additional ~140 kg of meteorites of lunar origin)? China’s lunar exploration program serves many objectives—only some are scientific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) runs China’s space program and science is secondary to other goals of their missions. So a better question to ask is, what purpose do these missions serve from a national strategic perspective?...