China Advancing: Shenzhou 9 Launch & Chang’e 3 Moon Lander Preparations
Steady progress by China in space development and exploration continues. The Shenzhou 9 mission to the indigenous 8.5-metric ton orbiting space station precursor, Tiangong 1, is a signal achievement in human spaceflight for the burgeoning China space program, not least because the crew of 3 includes the first female Taikonaut Liu Yang. Advanced preparations are also underway for launch of the Chang’e-3 robotic lander mission to the surface of the Moon in 2013. Barring any early attempt from GLXP contenders, this is likely to be the first spacecraft to make a soft, controlled landing on the lunar surface since Luna 24 on August 7, 1976. There are growing indications that China is opening up to international collaboration. The International Lunar Observatory Association is preparing a proposal for Milky Way Galaxy, astronomical imaging with the lander-mounted telescope. Chang’e-4 is a second lander / rover mission that, if Chang’e-3 is successful at Sinus Iridum (44.1° N), could break new ground at the Moon South Pole. Chang’e-5 is planned for 2017 as a sample return mission. (Image Credit: CNSA, ILOA)
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