Scientists reveal blueprint of China's lunar water-ice probe mission
A schematic diagram of lunar facilities on the moon. /CFP
A schematic diagram of lunar facilities on the moon. /CFP

A schematic diagram of lunar facilities on the moon. /CFP

Chinese space scientists have revealed in a paper how the country's lunar probe Chang'e-7, supported by a hopping detector, may go about investigating the water-ice in the shadow pit near the south pole of the moon.

China plans to launch the Chang'e-6 to land on the moon in around 2024 to collect samples from the far side of the moon, before sending the Chang'e-7 probe around 2026 to implement resource exploration of the lunar south pole.

Both orbital remote sensing and in-situ detection in the permanent shadow areas of the lunar south pole are projected to be carried out in the process of probing the source, content and distribution of lunar water-ice, according to a review article published in the journal Space: Science & Technology.

The researchers from the National Space Science Center, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the China Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center of the China National Space Administration, indicated in the paper that a water molecular analyzer will be installed on a mini-flying probe to obtain water molecules in the frost layer on the moon's surface.

According to their plan, the mini-flying probe will take off in the lunar light area and fly to the permanently-shadowed bottom of an impact cater.

A drilling tool on the probe will then sample lunar soil water-ice before a mechanical arm will move it into a heating furnace for spectral analysis.

The mini-flying detector can overcome the limitations faced by traditional lunar rovers, which are incapable of reaching the crater bottom, and the measurement results will reveal whether the lunar soil at the bottom of the crater contains water, ammonia and other volatile matter, according to the paper.

Also, two other scientific payloads are expected to be deployed on an orbiter to study the moon's surface water-ice, according to the paper.

Lunar water exploitation is believed to be a prerequisite for a sustained human presence on the moon and in deeper space. However, the possible source of lunar water-ice is still unclear, making the mission scientifically necessary.

According to China's lunar exploration blueprint, the Chang'e-8 will be launched around 2028 to conduct experiments on lunar resource utilization and to build the basic model of the International Lunar Research Station.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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