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China Developing Nuclear Powered Rover for 2012 Lunar Missions

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posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 04:05 PM

Scientists in Shanghai are developing an atomic-powered lunar rover for China's first unmanned mission to the moon in 2012.

The as-yet unnamed six-wheeled lunar vehicle has been under development for four years at the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute, where a specialized testing laboratory has been outfitted to replicate the lunar surface, the Shanghai Daily reported.

The 1.5-meter (5-foot) high, 200-kilogram (440-pound) rover is designed to transmit video in real time, dig for and analyze soil samples, and produce three dimensional images of the lunar surface, the paper said.

“We want to make it better than the early U.S. and Russian rovers,'' the institute's director, Luo Jian, was quoted as saying.

With an average speed of 100 meters (328 feet) per hour, it can negotiate inclines and has automatic sensors to prevent it from crashing into other objects, the report said.


This is interesting, I am an advocate of further space exploration,
regardless of what country is doing it, so this is cool.

I'm sure there will be groups who will be vehemently against this in
other countries, because of the nuclear powered aspect.

I personally don't mind if it's nuclear powered, and indeed I think
it's actually a good development.
Plus, on the off chance something goes wrong, and the nuclear
generator detonates before it's in Space, it will be over an area that
is mostly uninhabited.

Comments, Opinions?

posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 04:34 PM
Although the article doesn't specify the type of "nuclear power supply" that will power this rover, I don't think we have to worry about that power supply detonating anywhere - on Earth, in space, on the moon, anywhere. They're talking about running a ~200 kg rover - if it's going to use a nuclear source of power, that source is going to have to be a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). These are the only nuclear power source that are light enough to fit the bill.

RTG's produce electricity by using thermocouples to take advantage of radioactive decay. They've been used on space missions for decades by the US and the Soviet Union/Russia, and have also been used to provide power to isloated places on Earth, sort of like large batteries. They're most often used on spacecraft which can't be assured of a steady stream of solar power. They're in use on the Cassini and New Horizons missions right now. RTG's are also being strong considered for use on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, set to launch in 2009 (assuming everything stays on track...)

posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 04:46 PM
You are most likely right, and I actually did think about RTG's.

Alot of people just hear nuclear though and have a fit, so I added
the part about the launch site being mostly uninhabited.

Oh, and..

You have voted PhloydPhan for the Way Above Top Secret award.
You have two more votes this month.


posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 06:32 PM
I can see RTG powered Rovers being great for places like Mars, especially when the Sunlight gets weaker in the winter and the Rovers can't do much. But on the Moon I'd think solar power would be fine, since a Lunar day is a bit over 20 Earth days. And at night, I don't know if they could do anything, unless they had some bright lights I guess. But whatever, it's still cool. Hopefully all goes well for them.

posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 09:46 PM
Sending radioactive material to the Moon?

Wow, great idea by a wreckless government.

I say keep the moon pristine. Despite the junk already present I do not think we should dump plutonium there.

posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 11:04 PM
Yep - sending radioactive material to the moon. Something that only a wreckless government would ever conceive of doing.

Sorry, SteveR, but - assuming the Chinese rover launches in 2012 as planned - the U.S. will have beat them in the radioactive-material-to-the-moon game by by ~43 years. Apollos 12-17 included RTG's in the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages (ALSEPs) they left on the surface of the moon. The RTGs from the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 ALSEPs are still on the moon. The RTG from the Apollo 13 ALSEP re-entered the Earth's atmosphere along with the Aquarius lunar module and landed - intact - in the Pacific Ocean. Every authenticated report suggests that no radiation was released from this re-entry.

While I'm not the biggest fan of destroying the moon's relatively pristine environment, either, violation of the natural state of environments is part and parcel of exploration. RTGs are fairly safe in terms of launch, landing, and eventual (hypothetical) disposal, although that disposal isn't necessarily cheap. There's plenty of "junk" - including Plutonium - on the moon already, and as we explore it there is only going to be more. That's a fact we're going to have to live with.

posted on Apr, 2 2007 @ 11:23 PM
Great response, PhloydPhan. You get my WATS for this month.

I had considered the possibility of it already being done, just found no relevant information in searches.

posted on Apr, 3 2007 @ 09:41 AM
the moon has got radio active material all over it surface due to solarwinds and other phenonemens , so I don't see the problem.

I still have regrets that people stopt the jimo project.

posted on Apr, 6 2007 @ 11:53 AM
Does china have the RTG capability?

posted on Apr, 6 2007 @ 12:15 PM
China's extant RTG capability is unclear at present. However, there is now confirmation via the BBC that China does plan to use RTGs to power this lunar rover.

Whether they have the capacity to built RTGs at present or not, China certainly has the necessary base of technology. China has nine operational nuclear reactors and more either under construction or in the planning stages. They also have known nuclear weapons capability, giving them all the necessary background knowledge and technology necessary to construct an RTG.

posted on Apr, 10 2007 @ 02:34 AM
Actually a better gauge of their nuclear capability would be the miniturization of the reactors, namely on submarines.

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