China is supposed to land a rover on the Moon soon (2013). This will be the first landing on the Moon from any nation in quiet a few decades - if none of the Google-Lunar-X-Price teams is faster, of cause.

The landing is going to happen as part of the Chang'e 3 mission. There are some pictures, very few bits and pieces of information and only very little papers about the details (design etc.) of this mission.

Does anyone know a good source of information? I am really interested in the rover, its design, its deployment, its method of control and its instruments. If there is any good stuff out there in Chinese - and if someone here actually speaks Chinese - could you give an overview of what is going on right now? What is the current status of when it will be launched exactly?


I was able to find quite a bit in the way of the Chang'e 3 rover's specifications and equipment, so I will only summarize its most interesting features.

  • Power supply: The rover is powered by both nuclear power and solar power, giving it a potential lifespan of approximately 30 years or more, even though its original mission is only for three months. It will be carrying a 45kg RTG, which they expect will provide approximately 140 Watts of power initially.
  • First mission: The Chang'e 3 rover's first mission is to explore roughly a 3 square kilometer area around its landing site, while testing "lunar surface topography, geological structure, mineral composition, and chemical composition." The rover will land at Rainbow Bay on the Sinus Iridium at a latitude of 44 degrees North.
  • Spectroscopy equipment: It will carry a single infrared spectrophotometer, and an alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer.
  • Radar equipment: The rover will have radar equipment attached to its underside, which will allow it to measure the underground structure of the lunar soil to a depth of 30 meters, with additional capacities extending down a few hundred more meters into the crust.
  • The lander: The 100 kg lander also has its own power supply and transmission capabilities, as well as an extreme ultraviolet camera and a near-ultraviolet optical telescope and after releasing the rover will function as a lunar observatory.
  • Object avoidance: I was unable to find what exact algorithms/software they were using, but it seems they have a larger-than-normal number of distance/movement sensors to guide the rover's movements.
  • Rover wheels: The Chang'e 3 rover has a novel design for the patterning on its wheels, which will help it maneuver easier on the lunar surface. Also, the rover's front wheels are capable of being extended and used as legs to navigate over difficult terrain.
  • Launch date: I was unable to find anything more specific than "late 2013". Since the Chang'e 3 project received an approximately 10 month set back a while ago, China has not as far as I can tell announced a new official launch date.


Note: The first four Chinese articles largely duplicate what the English Wikipedia page has to say, while adding details, such as the size/specs of the RTG and the official landing site for the rover. If you're interested in more detail about the rover, look at the baidu link.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, 45 kg, that's a huge amount. Let's hope they don't crash like Mars 96 did... $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jul 19 '13 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit I made a mistake--Chang'e 3 has a 45kg RTG, not 45kg of pure plutonium. Chinese is my second language, so I didn't get that quite right on my first reading. $\endgroup$ – Gwen Jul 19 '13 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Gwenn: Thanks for your answer. You wrote that you found quite a bit - could you add some links on useful material (no matter the language it was written in)? $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Jul 19 '13 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Gwenn Ok then, could you find how much plutonium is carried inside the RTG? $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jul 19 '13 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ @ernestopheles I included the links and added a bit more information. The best page is the baidu link I posted, it has a relative treasure trove of specifications and information about the design process. $\endgroup$ – Gwen Jul 19 '13 at 16:02

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