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更新时间:2013-12-16 21:47:35 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

As Rover Lands, China Joins Moon Club

HONG KONG — China on Saturday became the third country to steer a spacecraft onto the moon after its unmanned Chang’e-3 probe settled onto the Bay of Rainbows, state-run television reported.


The United States and the Soviet Union are the other countries to have accomplished so-called soft landings on the moon — in which a craft can work after landing — and 37 years have passed since the last such mission.


The successful arrival of the Chang’e-3 after a 13-day journey from Earth was reported on Chinese state television. Chinese news websites displayed what they said was a photograph from the craft of the moon’s surface. At the time of the last soft landing, by the Soviet Union in 1976, Mao Zedong lay a month from death and China was in the twilight of his chaotic Cultural Revolution. Now China, much richer and stronger, aspires to become a globally respected power, and the government sees a major presence in space as a key to acquiring technological prowess, military strength and sheer status.


Chinese media celebrated the landing as a demonstration of the country’s growing scientific stature. Television reports showed engineers at the mission control center in Beijing crying, embracing and taking pictures of one another on their cellphones.


“The dream of the Chinese people across thousands of years of landing on the moon has finally been realized with Chang’e,” said the China News Service, a state-run news agency. “By successfully joining the international deep-space exploration club, we finally have the right to share the resources on the moon with developed countries.”


The Chang’e-3 landing craft carried a solar-powered, robotic rover called the Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Mandarin Chinese, which was to emerge several hours later to begin exploring Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a relatively smooth plain formed from solidified lava. According to a Chinese legend, Chang’e is a moon goddess, accompanied by a Jade Rabbit that can brew potions that offer immortality.


“It’s a very ambitious mission in the sense that it’s a rover with a fair amount of instruments on it,” said Andrew Chaikin, a space historian and an expert on lunar travel. The instruments include radar to gather information about what lies as deep as 300 feet below the surface, Chinese space scientists have said.

“从这辆搭载了相当多仪器的月球车来看,这是一个非常有野心的计划,”太空历史学家、登月事务专家安德鲁·柴金(Andrew Chaikin)说。中国太空科学家称,搭载的仪器包括一种收集信息的雷达,可以探测到月球表面以下深达300英尺(约合91米)的地方。

“There is the potential that some really interesting science could come out of this,” Mr. Chaikin said.


But the mission also embodies China’s broader ambitions in space, other experts said. The Chang’e-3 mission is honing technology for future missions while also emphasizing exploration. The landing craft appears capable of carrying a payload more than a dozen times the weight of the 309-pound rover, Paul D. Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said in an email.

然而也有专家说,该计划象征着中国对太空怀有的志向不仅限于此。在强调探测的同时,为未来的计划进一步磨炼技术也是嫦娥三号的使命。休斯顿月球与行星研究所(Lunar and Planetary Institute)科学家保罗·D·斯普迪斯(Paul D. Spudis)在一封邮件中说,看起来这个重309磅(约合140公斤)的着陆器载荷可达其自重的十几倍。

“Although it will do some new science, its real value is to flight-qualify a new and potentially powerful lunar surface payload delivery system,” Dr. Spudis said.


A later Chang’e mission, sometime before 2020, is intended to bring back rocks and other samples from the moon, and that will need a larger craft capable of sending a vehicle back to Earth. That mission will also need a more powerful launch rocket, which China is also developing.


Within a decade, China could also become the only country with an operating space station. The International Space Station, which has been open to astronauts from 15 countries, is due to be decommissioned by 2020, and China’s own, much smaller station could be ready to go up about the same time, if preparations go smoothly. China is not among the countries allowed to use the international station.

在十年内,中国还会拥有唯一一个在运转的空间站。一直向全球15个国家的宇航员敞开大门的国际空间站(International Space Station)定于2020年退役,而如果一切顺利,到那时中国自己的一个规模小很多的空间站将做好发射的准备。中国不在允许使用国际空间站的国家之列。

Despite its benign name, China’s Jade Rabbit rover could kindle anxieties among some American politicians and policy makers that the United States risks losing its pre-eminence in space in coming decades. China’s opaque space bureaucracy is overseen by the military, and that has magnified wariness. Legislation passed by Congress in 2011 bars NASA from bilateral contacts with China, although multilateral contacts are not proscribed.


In the past, some Chinese space engineers have also enthusiastically endorsed eventually taking astronauts to the moon and back, which would make China the second country, after the United States, to achieve that feat. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003.


A policy paper in 2011 said China would “conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing,” but the government has not made any decision on a manned mission, said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island who researches China’s space activities.

研究中国太空活动的琼·约翰逊-弗里斯(Joan Johnson-Freese)是位于罗德岛的美国海军战争学院(United States Naval War College)的一名教授,她说在2011年的一份政策文件中,中国称将“开展载人登月前期方案论证”,但是政府在载人计划方面还没有做出任何决定。

“Certainly, they are putting all the building blocks in place so that if they make that policy decision, they can move forward,” said Professor Johnson-Freese. “But the Chinese are not risk-takers. They are not going to approve that program until they are sure they are capable of all those building blocks.”