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Touching the moon lightly

News story

Helping to ensure future spacecraft make a soft landing on the moon is how two Curtin-based researchers aim to make tomorrow better.

John Curtin Disinguished Professor Kok Lay Teo and his Department of Mathematics and Statistics colleague Dr Jingyang Zhou say they have developed a practical guidance law to land a lunar module upright and very close to zero velocity.

Dr Zhou (pictured right) said the model used in previously published research was normally a two-dimensional one that assumed lunar landers descended vertically, without horizontal movement.

He said this assumption was clearly unrealistic.

A new model and a newly developed computational method for optimal control helped the researchers devise the new guidance law.

Professor Teo (pictured left) said benefits included fuel savings and minimising the risk of a lunar lander toppling over.

Dr Zhou’s initial involvement in the research was at Harbin Institute of Technology in China, where he met Professor Teo.

Dr Zhou’s expertise is in aerospace engineering and the study stemmed from a thesis completed for his PhD, of which Professor Teo was the supervisor.

Professor Teo has been a visiting academic at Harbin Institute of Technology for more than seven years.

He said the inter-university collaboration had proved beneficial – with several Harbin researchers spending time at Curtin and the two institutions having jointly hosted PhD students.

“My expertise is in numerical optimal control and optimisation, but combining that with other expertise such as Dr Zhou’s, we could do a lot more,” he said.

The findings are revealed in Optimal Guidance for Lunar Module Soft Landing, a paper written jointly with Professor Di Zhou from Harbin Institute of Technology and Dr Guohui Zhao from Dalian Institute of Technology.

PHOTOGRAPHY: SAM PROCTOR

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