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Nov 25, 2013 11:29 AM EST

China Set to Launch Moon Mission Bound to Interfere With NASA's Current LADEE Project


China is all but ready to launch its own moon mission, but will not do so without hearing from the agency that is currently conducting its own lunar labor.

According to, China is entering the final stages of preparing its Chang'e 3 moon lander that is scheduled to launch in early Dec. The mission's first phase will be to orbit the moon, then to land and dispatch a rover on the lunar surface.

Just two days ago, had reported NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) officially began its mission. The craft launched Sept. 8 and is set to collect samples and data of the mysterious moon dust.

LADEE will orbit the moon as high as 37 miles off the surface and as low as eight miles off the surface. Jeff Plescia, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., said China's mission could definitely alter NASA's.

"The arrival of the Chang'e 3 spacecraft into lunar orbit and then its descent to the surface will result in a significant contamination of the lunar exosphere by the propellant," said Plescia, who is also the chair of NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG).

He also acknowledged that, while the Chang'e will create some obstacles for LADEE, it will also give it a unique opportunity.

"Propellant will be released at a relatively high altitude from burns as the Chang'e spacecraft enters lunar orbit and then at a range of altitudes as the spacecraft descends to the surface," Plescia said. "LADEE will be able to observe how the propellant becomes distributed into the lunar exosphere and then how it is later removed."

University of Notre Dame's Clive Neal agreed, but said if the U.S. and China communicate effectively, both missions could be enhanced by one another.

"What we have here is a situation where politics is certainly inhibiting good scientific cooperation and discovery because the NASA mission people are not allowed to communicate bilaterally with their Chinese counterparts," he said.

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