China is set to launch their third lunar probe next year. The probe will be called the chang'e-3 and it will be the first probe to have legs so that it can land safely on the moon's irregular surface. A secure landing will be essential because the country has designed a moon rover which will be carried to the moon and set in motion by the probe.
Ye Peijian, chief designer of the Chang'e missions comments on the new probe:
"The probe will take more scientific equipment than its predecessors mainly to detect, collect and analyze samples on the moon,"
Experts have mapped-out about half a dozen prime locations for the landing of the probe. Right now the moon's Bay of Rainbows, formally called Sinus Iridum, is the primary target for set-down, but that could change as conditions change.
The mission will be distinctively different than past missions because of the lunar rover. The rover will patrol the moon's surface for ninety days collecting samples and mapping the topography, which will be one of the most difficult tasks.
"It will be the most difficult part of the mission as the rover must avoid dropping into big holes on the moon and climb over some small pits and rocks,"
It is unknown what the rover will be called or what it looks like. Apparently the Chinese public will name the rover sometime this year. How this will be done is also not mentioned.
What is known is that the rover features a solar plate which will unfold during sunlight hours to absorb energy, but will retract and protect the rover's vital power supply during the freezing darkness hours. All of its functions will be controlled by scientists on Earth.
More details about the mission and the name of the rover will be revealed as 2012 unfolds. We will keep readers up to date on Chang'e-3 as more information becomes available.