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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Quick Chang'e 3 and Mars Orbiter Mission updates

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

11-12-2013 11:01 CST

Topics: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status, Chang'E program

Two quick status updates on planetary missions:

Chang'e 3 is one step closer to the Moon. When it entered lunar orbit a few days ago, it entered a 100-kilometer circular orbit. At 13:20 UTC yesterday it fired its rocket while on the far side of the Moon to lower the orbit periapsis to 15 kilometers. Over the coming few days, its orbit will walk westward with respect to the lunar surface, placing the spacecraft in position for its descent to the surface at 15:22 UT (7:22 PT) on December 14.

Chang'e 3 lowers its orbit


Chang'e 3 lowers its orbit

Meanwhile, India's Mars Orbiter Mission has just performed a trajectory correction maneuver that trims its course toward Mars. It required a 44-second firing of its maneuvering thrusters, not its main engine, and the maneuver reportedly went well. It has much farther to fly than Chang'e 3 does, of course -- arrival is still next year, September of 2014. I don't always write about trajectory correction maneuvers for missions -- they're pretty routine on deep space missions these days -- but commanding a spacecraft that's already far from Earth is new territory for India, so everything that Mars Orbiter Mission accomplishes from here on out is a newsworthy first for them.

Mars Orbiter Mission corrects its trajectory

Baiju Raj

Mars Orbiter Mission corrects its trajectory
Artist's concept of India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) conducting a Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM).

See other posts from December 2013


Or read more blog entries about: Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), mission status, Chang'E program


Shreerang Kaulgi: 12/11/2013 12:17 CST

What would be the size of a backyard (or terrace) telescope or a binocular to be able to see chang'e 3 or other moon missions on the moon's surface?

Kimmo Rouvari: 12/11/2013 12:36 CST

Hi Emily, Why wasn't there any talk about Juno's Earth flyby anomalous speed increase? Why didn't you ask about it? You at least asked one question.

Enzo: 12/11/2013 05:34 CST

@Shreerang, I'm not sure what is the size of Chang'e 3 but I assume that to see it as more than one pixel, you would need a resolution of ~30 cm. From Earth, this means a telescope of about ~500 m diameter. Even if you had such huge telescope, then there's the atmosphere to ruin it all for you.

Messy: 12/12/2013 11:10 CST

When was the last soft landing on the Moon? I know there have been orbiters from time to time in recent years, but AFAIK, the last lander was a Soviet Luna probe back in the middle 70s. Am I wrong?

Emily Lakdawalla: 12/12/2013 03:41 CST

Sheerang: As Enzo pointed out, no backyard telescope is large enough. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to see them though, and plans to image the landing site. Kimmo: Sorry, that's not something I'm interested in. Messy: You are not wrong!

SOdendahl: 12/13/2013 07:08 CST

LRO will be attempting to collect spectrographic data from the LAMP instrument as close to the landing time as possible, primarily to see the rocket plume and the dust kicked up from the landing. The camera will image the lander some time after the landing, but even at the spectacular resolution of the LRO Camera, there probably won't be much more than a blur to see.

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