Scientists reveal goals, payloads of China's lunar water-ice probe mission

In a recently published paper, Chinese space scientists have outlined the scientific objectives and instruments set to explore the lunar south pole with the Chang'e-7 probe. The mission is part of China's ambitious lunar exploration program, with plans to launch Chang'e-6 in the first half of 2024 to collect samples from the far side of the moon.


Scheduled for around 2026, the Chang'e-7 mission aims to conduct resource exploration specifically focused on the water ice in the shadow pit near the moon's south pole. The scientific goals encompass a broad range of lunar aspects, including the investigation of water ice and volatile components in lunar soil, lunar morphology, composition, internal structure, magnetic fields, the landscape of the lunar south pole, Earth's magnetotail, plasma layer, and Lunar-Earth Very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) measurements.


The review article, recently published in the journal National Science Review, details that the Chang'e-7 mission will feature 18 payloads distributed across its detection platforms. Notably, the Lunar Orbit VLBI Experiment (LOVEX), the Grid-based Energetic Neural Atom Imager (GENA), and the Extreme Ultraviolet Camera (EUC) are slated to be mounted on the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, scheduled for launch in the first half of the current year.


The main probe of Chang'e-7 comprises an orbiter, a lander, a rover, and a mini-flying probe. The lander, along with the rover and mini-flying probe, is expected to touch down on the illuminated rim of a crater near the lunar south pole. The scientific instruments to be installed on the main probe include cameras, radars, mineral and water analyzers, spectrometers, magnetometers, a seismograph, and a volatiles detector.


Overall, the Chang'e-7 mission is strategically designed to delve into the moon's formation, evolution, and the surrounding space environment. Additionally, the investigation aims to assess the potential utilization of in-situ resources on the moon, serving as a foundational step towards establishing a long-term lunar research station in the future.


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