Since launching its lunar program in 2004, China has conducted five robotic missions. Chang’e 5, the latest mission, arrived on the moon in late 2020 before returning to Earth with 1.7 kg of lunar rocks and soil, the first specimens from Earth’s only natural satellite in 44 years.
Chinese researchers are considering launching a robotic mission to the Moon’s craters, where it would land in the so-called permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) near the lunar south pole, and Beijing is ready and eager to move forward with its lunar project.
Why are these areas referred to as “permanently shadowed”? The Sun never reaches to a substantial altitude above the horizon there because the Moon is tidally locked towards Earth and there are no seasons.
The Moon possesses both peaks of continual light, where everlasting day prevails, and craters of endless darkness, where the Sun never rises, due to this reason.
Researchers from Fudan University’s Key Laboratory of Information Science of Electromagnetic Waves noted in a study published in the Journal of Deep Space Exploration that China’s Chang’e-7 mission, set to launch in 2024 or 2025, will be tasked with casting additional light on PSRs.
As per the research, the “Chang’E-7 mission plans a rover landing at the solar illuminated region near PSR. A mini-flyer carried by the lander will fly to the PSR to collect regolith samples for analysis. Selection of landing site and sampling site is critical for the mission.”
The project will include a number of spacecraft, including an orbiter, relay satellite, lander, rover, and “mini flying detector,” which will aid scientists in tracking down any water ice in the PSR.
Many people would be curious to see what this “flying detector” looks like. Researchers said that they will most likely use a Shanghai Jiao Tong University-developed six-legged moveable repetitive HexaMRL lander.
They went on to say that the detector ship would be capable of many takeoffs and landings, and that it would employ its six legs to sample lunar regolith, which is a layer of heterogeneous material that covers solid rock.
Since announcing its lunar program in 2004, China has successfully launched five Chang’E missions.