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China plans to launch 3rd Moon mission next year

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An artistic representation of Chang'e 2 satellite.

BEIJING (PTI): China's third lunar probe, Chang'e-3, is expected to be launched next year and it will conduct moon landing and lunar explorations, a top space official has said.

Different from the previous two orbiters, Chang'e-3 has "legs" to support the spacecraft in landing, Ye Peijian, chief commander of Chang'e-3 at China Academy of Space Technology, said.

The orbiter will carry a lunar rover and other instruments for territory surveys, living conditions assessment, and space observations, Ye, a member of China's political advisory body was quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying.

The 100-kg lunar rover, China's first such device, is designed to operate on the moon for over three consecutive months, Ye said, on the sidelines of the advisory body's current annual session.

It must be capable of avoiding large craters and climbing through smaller ones, Ye said.

An advanced recognition and navigation system will be installed, and a telecommunications system will allow scientists to control the rover from Earth.

Moreover, the rover will have to endure energy the frigid and prolonged lunar night, which is as long as seven solar days and can see temperatures drop below minus 170 degrees Celsius.

To solve the problem, Ye said they have designed solar wings that can stretch out to collect sunlight in the daytime and shield the equipment at night.

"We have made breakthroughs in all these fields," Ye claimed, stating that the launch could be scheduled to take place next year.

The launch of Chang'e-3 and Chang'e-4 is part of the second step of China's three-phrase lunar probe projects of orbiting, landing and returning.

China launched the Chang'e-1 in 2007 and the Chang'e-2 2010.

The first probe retrieved a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second one created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium.

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