China's Chang-7 lunar mission to target Shackleton Crater

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

According to a recently published journal article, Chang'e-7 will target one of a handful of sites expected to provide exceptionally long-duration illumination of the lunar south pole.

The supposed glowing rim of the Shackleton Crater is probably similar Candidate Landing Site Peak Near Shackleton was named for NASA's Artemis 3 crew mission.

Such a site can provide favorable illumination, while being near permanently shaded areas, such as water-ice vapor.

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

Preparatory plans for the establishment of China's International Lunar Research Base (ILRS) include the Chang'e-8 South Pole Resource Utilization Mission. It is scheduled to launch before 2028.

As per earlier announcements, Chang'e-7 and -8 will together form the base line of the ILRS.

China is currently trying to attract partners to the ILRS. Egypt is the most recent country to sign in December 2023.

The multi-component Chang'e-7 mission will consist of an orbiter, a lander, a rover and a small flyby probe. These will explore the environment and resources of the lunar south pole in conjunction with a communications relay satellite.

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

Scientific objectives

The Article, published in the National Science Review in late December, presents a series of scientific findings. This includes studying the lunar morphology, composition, and composition, identifying the water ice and volatile components of the lunar soil. It names payloads that include a seismometer, ground-penetrating radar, magnetometer, spectrometers, and more.

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

„If the seismometer can record for a long time, getting seismic data from the South Pole will be important because it can show the intensity of shallow earthquake activity at the South Pole,” Neal says.

„Apollo seismic data have shown that shallow earthquakes have body wave magnitudes of 5 to 6 and maximum ground amplitudes of up to 10 minutes. Although none of the shallow earthquakes fell within the narrow aperture of the Apollo Passive Seismic Network, at least one was estimated to originate from the South Pole region.

„Therefore, the CE-7 seismic ILRS and Artemis will inform how to build a base camp that can withstand high-magnitude seismic events.”

Chang'e-7 will also focus on volatiles. The mini-flying probe will carry a single payload called the Lunar Soil Water Molecular Analyzer (LSWMA). It is designed to collect water molecule and hydrogen isotope data at a specific site.

The orbiting Lunar Neutron Gamma Spectrometer (LNGS) will work to determine the distribution and source of lunar water ice in the south polar region and permanently shadowed regions of the Moon.

Chang'e-7 Science Missions
1 Distribution and origin of lunar soil water ice and volatile constituents.
2 A study of lunar morphology, composition and structure.
3 Discovering and researching the Moon's internal structure, magnetic field and thermal properties.
4 Detailed detection and research of the Moon's south polar lunar surface environment.
5 Moon-based detection and research of Earth's magnetotail and plasma layer.
6 Lunar-Earth VLBI measurement experiments and observational studies.

The Queqiao-2 relay satellite will be launched as the first step for Chang'e-7.

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

Weighing 1,200 kilograms, the satellite will have a 4.2 meter diameter parabolic antenna and a service life of over eight years.

Queqiao-2 will initially support the unprecedented Chang'e-6 lunar distance model return mission, expected to launch in May. It will support the continued operations of the Chang'e-4 lunar far side lander and rover mission.

The relay satellite will carry all three payloads, which will play a role in the overall Chang'e-7 science mission. Queqiao-2 will operate in a 24-hour, elliptical frozen orbit to support Chang'e-6. It switches to a similar, 12-hour orbit for trips 7 and 8.

International cooperation

China National Space Administration declared Chances are Chang'e-7 will join the mission in early 2023.

Agreement to join the ILRS by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). It was announced that the company had agreed to join the proposed payload for the Chang'e-7 mission.

The United Arab Emirates and China signed a memorandum of understanding for the UAE to fly a small lunar rover in September 2022. The project was later declared affected by US ITAR regulations. The latest paper does not mention the rover or the NARIT payload.

The journal paper lists the payloads to fly on five separate Chang'e-7 spacecraft.

Scientific payload Name function spaceship
1 LoveX Moon-Earth VLBI Measurement and Observation Experiment Relay Satellite (Queqiao-2)
2 GENA A dynamic neutral atom imager for imaging the Earth's magnetotile Relay Satellite (Queqiao-2)
3 EUC Extreme Ultraviolet Camera for Earth's Plasmasphere Monitoring Relay Satellite (Queqiao-2)
4 HRSMC High resolution stereo mapping camera Orbiter
5 MSR Miniature synthetic aperture radar Orbiter
6 Wismea Infrared Spectral Mineral Imaging Analyzer Orbiter
7 L.N.G.S Lunar Neutron Gamma Spectrometer Orbiter
8 LOM Lunar Orbital Magnetometer Orbiter
9 LS Lunar seismogram Lander
10 LSEDS Lunar Surface Environment Detection System Lander
11 LC Landing camera Lander
12 TC Landscape camera Lander
13 pc Panoramic camera Round
14 RM rover magnetometer Round
15 LRS Chandra Raman Spectrometer Round
16 LPR Lunar Penetrating Radar Round
17 ISMSV Lunar surface volatile measurement system Round
18 LSWMA Lunar Soil Water Molecular Analyzer Mini-flying probe
List of payloads for China's Chang'e-7 mission.

Chang'e-7 is currently scheduled to launch in 2026 on a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang satellite launch pad.

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