|Major contractors||Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute|
|Mission type||Lander and rover|
|Launch date||2013 (planned)|
|Launch vehicle||Long March 3B|
|Launch site||Xichang Satellite Launch Center|
|Mission duration||Lander: ≥ 3 months
Rover: ≥ 3 months
|Mass||Lander: 1,200 kg (2,600 lb)
Rover: 120 kg (260 lb)
|Dimensions||Rover: 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high|
Rover: Solar panels and RTG
Chang'e 3 is a lunar exploration mission operated by China National Space Administration, incorporating a robotic lander and a rover. Chang'e 3 is scheduled for launch in late 2013 as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. It will be China's first lunar rover, and the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976. It is named after Chang'e, the Chinese goddess of the Moon, and is a follow-up to the Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 lunar orbiters.
The first Chinese lunar orbiter, Chang'e 1, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 24 October 2007 and entered lunar orbit on 5 November. The spacecraft operated until 1 March 2009, when it was intentionally impacted into the surface of the Moon. Data gathered by Chang'e 1 was used to create an accurate and high-resolution 3-D map of the entire lunar surface, assisting site selection for the Chang'e 3 lander.
Chang'e 1's successor, Chang'e 2, was launched on 1 October 2010 to conduct research from a 100-km-high lunar orbit, in preparation for Chang'e 3's 2013 soft landing. Chang'e 2, though similar in design to Chang'e 1, was equipped with improved instruments and provided higher-resolution imagery of the lunar surface to assist in the planning of the Chang'e 3 mission. In 2012, Chang'e 2 was dispatched on an extended mission to the asteroid 4179 Toutatis.
Like its orbiting predecessors, the Chang'e 3 mission is planned as a precursor to further robotic lunar exploration missions, including Chang'e 5, a sample return mission planned for 2017. Following these automated missions, a manned landing may be conducted around 2025.
In March 2012, China began manufacturing the body and payload of the Chang'e 3 lander, which will perform lunar surface and space studies independently of the mission's mobile rover. The stationary lander will be equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) in order to power its operations during its planned three-month mission. The lander has a mass of 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) and will have a scientific payload of seven instruments and cameras. In addition to their lunar scientific roles, the cameras will also acquire images of the Earth and other celestial bodies.
The lander is equipped with an astronomical telescope, comprising an extreme ultraviolet camera. It will be world's first lunar-based astronomical observatory, making long-term continuous observations of important celestial bodies to study their light variation and low galactic latitude. The extreme ultraviolet camera will investigate how solar activity affects the ion layer near the Earth.
The Chang'e 3 mission incorporates a lunar rover, designed to deploy from the lander and explore the lunar surface independently. The development of the six-wheeled rover began in 2002 at the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute and was completed in May 2010. The rover stands 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high and weighs approximately 120 kg (260 lb). With a payload capacity of approximately 20 kg (44 lb), the rover may transmit video in real time, and can dig and perform simple analysis of soil samples. It can navigate inclines and has automatic sensors to prevent it from colliding with other objects.
Energy will be provided by a solar panel, allowing the rover to operate through lunar days. The six-wheeled rover is designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometres during its 3-month mission, with a maximum travelling distance of 10 km (6.2 mi). The rover will carry a radar unit on its underside, allowing for the first direct measurement of the structure and depth of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 m (98 ft), and investigation of the lunar crust structure down to several hundred meters' depth. It will also carry an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer.
Topographic data from the Chang'e 1 and 2 orbiters were used to select a landing site for Chang'e 3. The lander is scheduled to land on the Sinus Iridum at a latitude of 44° north. The Sinus Iridum is a plain of basaltic lava that forms a northwestern extension to the Mare Imbrium.
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