China Is ‘Opening Up’ Its Lunar Missions, Releasing Data and Engaging the Public
31 January 2016
EIRNS—China’s Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) has invited the public to submit proposals, which are due in late March, for a small (less than 10-pound) payload to fly on the Chang’e-4 mission. That mission is slated to send a lander and rover to the far side of the Moon, as early as 2018, and before 2020. It will be the world’s first attempt to do so. Until now, the only information we have about the far side, which is distinctly different than the face that perennially faces the Earth, is from orbiting spacecraft. The lander and rover will take the first in situ measurements of the far side.
The small payload for the mission can be an instrument to go onboard the Chang’e-4 lunar lander, or onboard the relay satellite which will be needed for communications between the lander and rover, and mission control. CLEP released the "Call for Proposals" on January 8. The competition is open only to Chinese nationals, and will undoubtedly attract a lot of interest and activity from university students. CLEP said that it is already considering proposals from international partners.
In addition, over the past few days, technical data gathered from the scientific instruments on the previous Chang’e-1 and -2 missions have been made public in three free e-books, from China’s Planetary Data System. And hundreds of stunning high definition images from the Chang’e-3 lander and rover are now available on the Internet. They include photos of the Yutu rover from the lander, and interesting features from the landing area. Although Yutu is not able to rove, it has been collecting data and taking measurements from its stationary spot on the Moon.