UK set to go to Moon with China

Britain looks set to contribute to a spaceprobe called Chang’e II which could reach the lunar surface in 2010.
Under the proposals, a robot rover carrying UK experiments would leave the unmanned craft and run around looking for interesting rocks.
Instruments built by astronomers at the University of Leicester would analyse the rocks to work out what they are made of.
A follow-up “Chinese takeaway” mission in the next decade will land, collect samples of the moon’s crust and fly them back to Earth.
The major UK contribution to the Chang’e II mission is an X-ray spectrometer based on a device built for the UK’s ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars in 2003.
The unique Anglo-Chinese cooperation follows a visit to Beijing by Leicester space scientist Dean Talboys. He met with Chinese astronomers led by Professor Ziyuan Ouyang of Peking University.
Dean said that a final decision by China on carrying the UK instruments depends on funding for them being provided by the UK government of European Space Agency. But they need just a tiny fraction of the £45million that Beagle 2 cost.
He added: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with our colleagues at Peking University to propose instrumentation for the exploration of the Moon.
“We are working together towards having our instrumentation selected as part of the payload for the Chang’e II lunar rover. It is immensely rewarding working with China on this prestigious project at these early stages and we hope to continue this in the future.”
China, which made its second manned spaceflight last month, plans to send at least one probe to orbit the Moon next year before flying the landers. Chang’e is the name of the Chinese moon goddess.
The Leicester Space Research Centre has also developed a torch-sized detector called an X-ray spectrometer for astronauts to carry on the Moon to help them tell immediately what rocks are made of.
The device – a miracle of miniaturisation – is also based on one invented for Beagle 2.
They are also working on a box of tricks called GEORAD which could act as a future lunar laboratory on a separate mission.
Apart from analysing the lunar soil to find rocks from which oxygen could be extracted, it could try to detect ice in the craters near the Moon’s poles – vital to provide water and fuel for future manned colonies.
And it would measure deadly radiation from the sun and cosmic rays to help ensure that future manned missions provide suitable protection for astronauts.
The US has announced its own plans to return to the Moon and land astronauts there by 2018.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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