Chinese Chang’e-7 moon mission to target Shackleton Crater

Chinese Chang’e-7 moon mission to target Shackleton Crater

HELSINKI – China will attempt to land on the bright rim of Shackleton Crater near the moon’s south pole with its 2026 Chang’e-7 mission.

Chang’e-7 will target one of the few locations believed to provide exceptionally long periods of illumination at the moon’s south pole, according to a recently published journal article.

The area, said to be the bright rim of Shackleton Crater, may correspond to a candidate landing site for NASA’s Artemis 3 crewed mission called Peak near Shackleton.

Such a location can provide adequate lighting while also being close to permanently shaded areas that can host volatile materials such as water ice.

Chang’e-7 aims to provide valuable data for future lunar exploration and potential use of lunar resources. The mission is also the cornerstone of China’s plans to establish an international lunar base in the 2030s.

China’s preparatory plans for establishing the International Lunar Research Base (ILRS) include the Chang’e-8 Antarctic resource utilization mission. This is scheduled to be launched no later than 2028.

Together, the Chang’e-7 and -8 missions will form a basic blueprint for the ILRS, according to previous announcements.

China is currently trying to attract partners to the ILRS. Egypt is the latest country to join, in December 2023.

The multi-component Chang’e-7 mission will include an orbiter, a lander, a rover and a small flying probe. They will investigate the environment and resources of the Moon’s south pole with the support of a communications relay satellite.

The latter, called Queqiao-2, is expected to be launched in the coming months to support upcoming and ongoing missions.

Science objectives

The article, published in late December in the journal National Science Review, sets out a series of scientific goals. This includes detecting water ice in lunar soil and volatile components, and studying the moon’s morphology, composition and structure. It also names payloads, including a seismometer, ground penetrating radar, magnetometer, spectrometers, and more.

Clive Neal, a professor and lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said the return from the mission could be transformative for science and human exploration. Space news.

“Getting seismic data from the Antarctic will be important if the seismometer can record for a long period of time, as it can show the intensity of shallow earthquake activity in the Antarctic,” says Neil.

“Apollo seismic data showed that shallow lunar earthquakes likely had a body wave magnitude of 5 to 6 with a maximum ground amplitude of 10 min. While no shallow lunar earthquakes occurred within the narrow opening of the Apollo passive seismic grid, it was estimated that At least one source is from Antarctica.

“Therefore, the CE-7 seismic survey will determine how to set up the ILRS and Artemis Base Camp so that they can withstand such high-magnitude seismic events.”

Chang’e-7 will also focus on volatile materials. The miniature flying probe will carry a single payload, the Lunar Soil Water Molecular Analyzer (LSWMA). This is designed to collect water molecule and hydrogen isotope data at a specific location.

The Lunar Neutron Gamma Spectrometer (LNGS) on board the orbiter will be tasked with ascertaining the distribution and source of lunar water ice in the Moon’s south pole and permanently shadowed regions.

Chang’e-7 Scientific Objectives
1 Distribution and origins of lunar soil, water ice, and volatile components.
2 Studying the shape, composition and structure of the moon.
3 Detecting and researching the moon’s internal structure, magnetic field, and thermal properties.
4 Comprehensive detection and research of the lunar surface environment at the lunar south pole.
5 Lunar-based detection and research of Earth’s magnetotail and plasma layer.
6 VLBI lunar and Earth measurement experiments and observation studies.

The first step for Chang’e-7 will be the launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite.

Queqiao-2 is scheduled to launch on a Long March 8 rocket from the coastal Wenchang spaceport in early 2024, an official with the satellite developer said in October. That launch could take place in February.

The 1,200-kilogram satellite will have a 4.2-meter-diameter parabolic antenna and the mission is more than eight years old.

Queqiao-2 will initially support the unprecedented Chang’e-6 far-side sample return mission, expected to launch around May. It will also assist in the ongoing operations of the Chang’e-4 lander and far-side lunar rover.

The satellite will also carry three payloads that will play a role in Chang’e-7’s overall science goals. Queqiao-2 will operate in a 24-hour frozen elliptical orbit to support Chang’e-6. It will change to a similar 12-hour orbit for Missions 7 and 8.

International cooperation

The China National Space Administration has announced opportunities to join the Chang’e-7 mission in early 2023.

Agreement by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) to join the ILRS. This coincided with the announcement of the acceptance of the payload proposed by the institute to join the Chang’e-7 mission.

The United Arab Emirates and China signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2022 requiring the UAE to fly a small lunar module on the mission. It was later reported that this plan was affected by US ITAR rules. The last paper did not mention the rover nor the NARIT payload.

The magazine paper provides a list of the payloads that will be flown aboard the five separate Chang’e-7 spacecraft.

Scientific payload name job Space ship
1 Lovex Moon and Earth Measurement and Observation Experiment (VLBI). Relay satellite (Queqiao-2)
2 Jenna Active neutral atom imager for imaging the Earth’s magnetic tail Relay satellite (Queqiao-2)
3 EUC Extreme ultraviolet camera to monitor the Earth’s plasmasphere Relay satellite (Queqiao-2)
4 HRSMC High resolution stereo mapping camera Starship
5 Macao Special Administrative Region Miniature synthetic aperture radar Starship
6 And Yasmea Infrared spectrometer mineral imaging analyzer Starship
7 liquefied natural gas Lunar gamma neutron spectrometer Starship
8 blame Magnetometer in lunar orbit Starship
9 L.S Lunar seismometer Lander
10 LSEDS Lunar surface environment detection system Lander
11 L.C Landing camera Lander
12 H Topography camera Lander
13 Computer Panoramic camera rover
14 R.M Magnetic rover rover
15 LRS Lunar Raman spectroscopy rover
16 LPR Lunar penetrating radar rover
17 IsMSV In-situ volatile materials measurement system on the lunar surface rover
18 LSWMA Lunar soil water molecule analyzer Small flying probe
Payload list for China’s Chang’e-7 mission.

Chang’e-7 is currently scheduled to launch on a Long March 5 rocket in 2026 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.

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