Moon goddess Chang’e has inspired the name of several of China’s instruments being used in lunar research. There are different interpretations for the mythological story of how Chang’e got to the moon, but for the team of researchers in China’s lunar program, the story of Chang’e is far more than mythology. At the China Academy of Space Technology open house, the team of researchers discussed the depth of their dedication in their advances toward moon exploration. The team also disclosed information on their efforts to launch China’s first recoverable moon orbiter.
Last year the team was able to successfully land Chang’e-3 on the moon. The spacecraft carried Yutu, China’s first lunar rover. Yutu was named after the jade rabbit on the moon who becomes the pet of Chang’e in the same mythological tale. The sentiment and passion the researchers have was shared at the open house. One member of the team, Wang Pengji, talked about how looking at the moon allowed him to reminisce on the fact that their technology will soon allow them to discover more about the universe.
Xing Yan, the head of the team, spoke a little on the sacrifices the team has had to make. While it was evident, through general comments that many had lost considerable time with family members, Yan shared how her work affected her relationship with her son in a positive light. She found her son to be very proud of her work, so much so that he boldly shared with his classmates the fact that mother and son had to return tickets for a trip when Yan had to return to work to fix a malfunctioning Yutu.
The efforts of the team have all been put towards exploration of the moon and trying to advance their technology to eventually make China the next country to successfully land a man on the moon. The Chinese hope to achieve this goal by 2020. So far they are the third country to achieve a soft landing, following Russia and the United States. Around the year 2017, the lunar program expects to launch Chang’e-5, China’s first recoverable moon orbiter.
The craft will be able to use both external and internal forces to power itself, using the gravity of other planets as well as fuel from the craft. Once the craft has landed on the moon and collected samples, it will then need to blast off from the moon and dock with a re-entry capsule that is in orbit. The Chang’e-4 will be used as a tester for the Chang’e-5. The launch of the Chang’e-4 will take place before the end of this year as a measure to ensure the success of Chang’e-5. One of the teams main concerns is making sure the Chang’e-5 will be able to make re-entry to the earth’s surface at a high speed of about 11.2 kilometers per second.
According to the research team, they are likely to spend their entire careers on the space efforts they have planned. Beyond moon exploration, the team hopes to advance space-based solar projects which will supply energy to earth, and to develop technology for China’s future Mars program. The team shares no regret as they continue to work toward their goals. It is only through their diligent work in the years to come that the team might find their dreams becoming a reality.
By Kamille Dawkins