April 2 -- Shanghai has developed a prototype lunar rover it hopes will be
chosen for China's first landing on the moon in 2012, researchers said over the
A China-made lunar rover makes its debut
during the third China-UK Workshop on Space Science and Technology in
Shanghai, March 31, 2007. Experts said that the vehicle could climb a
30-degree slope and overcome barriers. The lunar rover is jointly
developed by Shanghai Spaceflight Agency, Shanghai Jiaotong University,
Harbin Institute Of Technology, Shenyang Institute of Automation and other
research institutes. (Xinhua Photo)
The remote-controlled vehicle was unveiled on
Saturday at a China-United Kingdom space technology seminar at the Shanghai
Aerospace System Engineering Institute in Minhang District in the city's south.
The rover, which travels at an average speed of 100
meters per hour and is 1.5 meters high and weighs 200 kg, is similar to
America's "Spirit," which landed on Mars.
"We want to make it better than the early US and
Russian rovers," institute director Luo Jian said, without specifying the
He said engineers have spent the past four years
developing the as-yet unnamed moon vehicle in a laboratory outfitted to mimic
the lunar surface.
The rover is designed to take three-dimensional
images, transmit real-time motion pictures and dig and analyze soil samples.
Luo said the rover can climb slopes, and its sensors
can help it avoid bumping into obstacles.
Researchers are still refining the vehicle to ensure
it can handle the moon's gravity, which is only one-sixth that of Earth's, and
withstand intense cosmic rays and temperature differences that run between
minus-180 degrees Celsius at night and 150 degrees in the day.
The biggest challenge for planners is energy supply
because each "night" on the moon lasts for 14 Earth days, making solar power
Institute engineers said they are planning to install
a nuclear power source to ensure the rover's constant operation during its
mission 380,000 km away from Earth.
The institute also plans to build a simulated
lunar-environment laboratory complete with moon-type gravity and cosmic rays
over the next few years to enhance the testing process.
Space institutes in Beijing and elsewhere in China
are also working on their own rovers. It was not clear when China's space
authority would make a final selection.
The country's lunar ambitions are set out in the
"Chang'e Project," named after the Chinese moon goddess. It comprises three
stages through 2017.
A lunar orbiter will be launched late this year; the
remote-controlled lunar rover will sent up in 2012; and an unmanned return
module will follow. Those steps are part of the preparations for a manned lunar
voyage at some time beyond 2017.
(Source: Shanghai Daily)