European Space Agency to help track China's moon probe mission

Nov. 29, 2013 at 3:08 PM
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PARIS, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says its tracking station will lend a hand to China when that country launches a mission to put a rover on the moon.

China's Chang'e-3, named after a mythological goddess of the moon, is scheduled for lift off Sunday. It will be followed by ESA tracking stations during its 5-day journey to put a six-wheeled rover on the lunar surface, the agency reported Friday.

After the launch, ESA's station in Kourou, French Guiana, will start receiving signals from the mission and will upload commands to the spacecraft on behalf of the Chinese control center, it said.

"We are proud that the expertise of our ground station and flight dynamics teams and the sophisticated technologies of our worldwide Estrack network can assist China to deliver a scientifically important lander and rover to the moon," Thomas Reiter, ESA's Director for Human Spaceflight and Operations, said.

The tracking will be coordinated from the Estrack Control Center in ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, with a team of engineers from China on hand.

"While we're very international at ESOC, hardly anyone speaks Mandarin, so having Chinese colleagues on site will really help in case of any unforeseen problems," said Erik Soerensen, responsible for the center's external mission tracking support.

Such cooperation will be increasingly important in future space exploration, Reiter said.

"Whether for human or robotic missions, international cooperation like this is necessary for the future exploration of planets, moons and asteroids, benefiting everyone," he said.

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