China's Lunar Missions To Be International, Space Official States
China has opened its lunar exploration programs to international cooperation, and is planning ground-breaking missions in its multi-stage exploration of the Moon, Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of China's National Space Administration, reported on Sept. 26, at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Speaking on a panel of heads of space agencies, Wu reiterated China's offer of the capabilities of the relay satellite that will be placed into lunar orbit to support the 2018 Chang'e-4 lunar farside mission, to other nation's missions at the Moon. The orbiter is needed to relay data to and from the lander with Earth.
"The communications satellite will be used not only for the Chang'e-4 mission, but also for supporting future manned and unmanned lunar exploration missions to the far side, and cis-lunar activities," Wu said.
He reported that so far,
"we have confirmed that four of the payloads, from Germany, from Sweden, from the Netherlands, as well as from Italy, will be flying on board the Chang'e-4 mission." He explained that "Chang'e-4's science suite will collect data on the Moon's seismic activity, survey underground geologic layers with a ground-penetrating radar, and observe the universe with a Very Low Frequency receiver, exploiting the pristine radio environment on the lunar far side, for astronomical research."
Wu also announced that if the Chang'e-5 sample return mission next year is successful, the back-up spacecraft can be used later for another sample return mission, possibly on the far side of the Moon. He also reiterated that the Chinese government has approved a robotic mission to Mars, to launch in 2020. This year, China will release its third White Paper on space policy. These papers, in English, are meant to make accessible to the international community, China's goals and missions in space.
Meanwhile, the Chang'e-3 lander, which has been on the lunar surface since late 2013, has continued its astronomical observations. Andrew Jones reported Sept. 28th in GBTimes that during a four-hour lunar eclipse on Sept. 16th, the Ultraviolet Telescope on the lunar lander snapped 232 high-quality images. The telescope, which he reports is the only instrument still working from the mission, has observed galaxies, binary stars, and galactic nuclei, which cannot be observed from Earth.