China to launch first moon lander in December

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Originally published on November 28, 2013

China's first unmanned moon lander, known as Chang'e 3, is scheduled to launch in early December. However, NASA has warned that the Chinese moon lander could jeopardize its own lunar mission, which is already in orbit.

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was launched in September to study the moon's thin exosphere and lunar dust environment. There is concern that the contamination brought by the Chinese spacecraft when it arrives may disrupt the mission.

The Chang'e 3 moon lander will be launched on a Long March 3B rocket. The mission will first orbit the moon, then propel down to a landing site, known as Sinus Iridum or the Bay of Rainbows. Then, a small solar-powered lunar rover, named Jade Rabbit will be released.

The Jade Rabbit moon rover is a six-wheel driving rover, which weighs about 140 kg. It is equipped with four cameras, and it will patrol the surface for at least three months. It can travel at a speed of 200 meters per hour.

The mission will also carry a near-ultraviolet astronomical telescope to observe stars, the galaxy and the universe from the moon. The telescope is expected to bring new discoveries since there will be no disturbance from the aerosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere on the moon. A radar will also be attached to the bottom of the rover to explore 100 to 200 meters beneath the moon's surface.

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