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China Moon NASA Space Science

China's Nuclear Rover Will Sample the Moon 134

HansonMB writes "After launching on one of the nation's Long March rockets and a three-day transit, Chang'E 3 will reach the Moon and enter into a 62 mile orbit. Once settled, the 2,645 pound lander will separate from the roughly 8,200 pound spacecraft and descend into a highly elliptical orbit 62 by 9.5 miles above the surface." Russia wants a taste, too, and plans a moon-sampling mission set for 2015.
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China's Nuclear Rover Will Sample the Moon

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  • WTF Hoola Hoop? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @05:10PM (#42620313) Journal

    the 2,645 pound lander will separate from the roughly 8,200 pound spacecraft and descend into a highly elliptical orbit 62 by 9.5 miles above the surface

    Why are they landing a "lander" on an elliptical orbit instead of the surface of the moon? Did this come from the Siri Translator?

  • by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @05:53PM (#42620713)

    Nah... US will return to the moon in 2015. Just after NASA builds a vehicle to replace the retired space shuttles, in 2014; it will be called "Crew Exploration Vehicle". And, once on the Moon, the Americans will start building a permanent base there, as an avant-post for manned missions to Mars.

    Nice re-reading science-fiction classics, especially George W. Bush [].

    On the other hand, I can't deplore enough the change in the mind-set. From

    We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, etc

    to why send humans when you can just send robots... in only 50 years.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @06:41PM (#42621089)

    Why send humans when you can just send robots.

    Why send robots when you just not send anything at all? At some point, you are assuming that there's something valuable to do in space. Else just not doing anything is the correct choice.

    As it turns out both robots and humans have their place in space activities. Robots are the obvious winners for virtually all extreme exploration, such as sending something out for the first time (the unmanned probes that were part of the Apollo program and used to scout possible sites and try out landing technology), to an environment that simply is not survivable (for example, a one way trip into the atmospheres of Jupiter or Venus), or lasts a ridiculous length of time (the Voyager missions).

    Robots are also good for easily automated tasks such as imaging and communications. And as the software improves, one can expect more such tasks to be automated.

    Humans are better for missions that have a lot of complexity and on site decision making. The Apollo program contains a good example of human activity that couldn't be readily duplicated by an affordable amount of robotics on Mars. Overall human time on the Moon was something like three or four weeks of human time (including the fact that there were two people on each of the half dozen missions that made it to the Moon).

    For example, consider the scientific missions to Mars over the past forty years. Each of the last three lunar missions duplicated the basic feats of any of the rovers on Mars, but in a couple of days rather than a number of years. And a powerful component of the Apollo program was the sample return, which still generates considerable academic activity today.

    People tend to forget that a manned mission could generate as much scientific knowledge in a few weeks as the unmanned landers and rovers have over the past last forty years. And that's a good use of humanity's real strength, the Earthside infrastructure that has had to make do with a remarkably thin gruel for four decades.

    There's also the goal of eventual colonization of space. One has to use humans at some point in order to further that goal beyond a rudimentary level.

  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @07:50PM (#42621595)

    Why send humans when you can just send robots.

    Why go yourself when you can send someone else?
    Why ride a horse when you can get someone else to ride a horse for you?
    Why make love to a real pretty girl when you can get someone else to do it for you?
    Why not just kill yourself now and get your lack of involvement in life over with?
    We do things ourselves, go places ourselves, because that is part of what makes us human, we participate in life the universe and everything.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:12PM (#42622139)

    Colonize space? Why? 3/4 of our planet is ocean, how about colonize that first? Deserts? Hint: it will be much cheaper and possible with today's technology without major sacrifices. So... where are the underwater cities, etc? No takers?

    Because governments are too close?

    For example, when the Republic of Minerva attempted to create an independent micronation by colonizing an area of the ocean, the US paid Tonga to claim it for the Kingdom of Tonga so the millionaires who were trying to found it couldn't get out from under existing national sovereignties.

    For a lot of people willing to fly away to the far reaches of space, the limiting factor has always been the cost of getting out of the gravity well in the first place. The DC-X (Delta Clipper) would have remedied this, but it was killed off McDonnell Douglas as part of them being eaten by Boeing, in favor of the National Aerospace plane, which never materialized, and would have needed runways and to boost additional equipment to do landings out there, where there are no runways for the plane to use (an intentional limitation of the plane).

    I can understand governments being wary of cheap access to space (e.g. [] should probably not be put in practical reach of well to do Facebook emloyees, and more than you'd want them to have tactical nuclear weapons at their disposal).

    That it would cost a whole hell of a lot for a cat's paw to fly up and try to claim the territory out from under them is a major advantage of basing something like this in space, and therefore a major draw to colonization efforts there.

    There are also people even crazier than that who believe that it's mankind's Manifest Detiny to expand to fill the solar system, and from there the nearby stars, then on to the galaxy, and then on to the rest of the universe: [] .

    Either way, it means either getting rid of the small minds in the way, or working around them. Local end runs, like Minerva, have failed, and if you are just going to be an extension of an existing nation, and are in the top 1% of wealth there anyway, you can be a hell of a lot more comfortable under their thumb without going anywhere than you can be doing subsistence fish-farming on a floating city in the middle of the Pacific being a damn sight less comfortablr, and then finding yourself *still* under their thumb anyway.

    Colonies are built by political refugees, economic refugees, indentured servants, disinherited heirs, bastard progeny, and, in general, people looking for a better life than the one they have now. For everyone in the middle class and higher, that's basically unavailable here on Earth, "better" being a relative term, and with orbital costs being artificially inflated, anyone below that level of wealth can't hope to go anywhere, except local regional border crossings, in the hope of a better life.

    So you get a bunch of nerds, in the middle class and higher, where do you think they will be pointing their colony ships, Antarctica? It might work, but you are more likely to get booted off by whoever "protects" that section of Antarctica from someone doing that under the Antarctic Treaty [] which was designed to prevent something like that ever happening.

    The closest you're going to get on-planet is taking over an existing state, and Charles Taylor pretty much nailed the door shut on that in 1960: []

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351