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China's first Moon rover to be powered by nuclear battery

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BEIJING (PTI): China's first Moon rover will be powered by a home-built nuclear battery, the chief scientist of the China's lunar project said.

The rover will land on Moon next year on board Chang'e-3, China's third lunar probe, Shanghai Daily reported.

The Chang'e-3 is expected to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan Province. The Chang'e-3 will also observe space from the lunar surface as the lack of atmosphere allows better viewing than from Earth.

The battery, using plutonium-238, will be able to power the 100-kilogramme vehicle for more than 30 years, Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist quoted. Mr. Ouyang said the rover would be powered by the Sun during daytime and by nuclear power during the night.

"The nuclear power system will make China the third country apart from the United States and Russia to be able to apply nuclear technology to space exploration," Mr. Ouyang said.

A lunar night lasts for 14 days with temperatures reaching below minus 100 degrees Celsius. The battery will be the only source of energy during that time and will prevent the equipment from freezing, he said. An expandable solar panel will absorb the Sun's energy during the day.

Mr. Ouyang said the rover and the Chang'e-3 would stay on the Moon until the Chang'e-5 probe arrived to take samples and the rover back to the Earth.

He said China was currently working on the Chang'e-5 as well as a new Long March-5 rocket to carry the probe.

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