China's second moon orbiter Chang'e-2 sends data from 1.7 mln km away

2013-12-02 07:25:28 GMT2013-12-02 15:25:28(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

China's second moon orbiter, the Chang'e-2, has sent back its first batch of data while orbiting the second Lagrange Point (L2) about 1.7 million kilometers away from Earth.

The orbiter is scheduled to travel around the L2 orbit until the end of 2012, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

The data it sent back was obtained by the orbiter's gamma-ray spectrometer, high-energy solar particle detector and solar wind ion detector while it travelling from the moon's orbit to its current position.

The Chang'e-2 will carry out exploration activities around the L2, such as monitoring high energy particles and solar winds.

Li Chunlai, one of designers for the lunar probe project, said the Chang'e-2 will be the first moon orbiter in the world to observe solar winds for a fairly long time around the L2, a prime position for studying solar winds.

The Chang'e-2 entered the L2 orbit, where gravity from the sun and Earth balances the orbital motion of a satellite, in late August and has been operating stably for 26 days.

There are five so-called Lagrange Points about 1.5 million km from the Earth in the exact opposite direction from the sun. Positioning a spacecraft at any of these points allows it to stay in a fixed position relative to the Earth and sun with a minimal amount of energy needed for course correction.

It is the first time for China to send a spacecraft 1.7 million km away from Earth.

Liu Dongkui, deputy chief commander of China's lunar probe project, said the Chang'e-2 had extended the travelling range for China's spacecrafts from 400,000 km to 1.7 million km.

The Chang'e-2 is also the first spacecraft in China to undertake multiple tasks in one mission, and the world's first to leave the moon's orbit for the L2, Liu said.

The orbiter completed all of its assigned tasks after blasting off on Oct. 1, 2010. Although the orbiter was only supposed to remain in space for six months, the SASTIND assigned additional tasks as the orbiter still had fuel in its reserve tanks.

Before arriving at its current position, the Chang'e-2 took photos of the northern and southern poles of the moon. It then descended to a lower orbit, approximately 15 km away from the moon's surface, where it captured high-resolution images of the Sinus Iridum (Latin for "Bay of Rainbows"), an area where China's future moon probes may land.

China's ambitious three-stage moon mission will include a moon landing during the second stage, which is scheduled to take place in 2013. During the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to Earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research around 2017.

China does not currently have a timetable in place for a manned moon landing.

It launched its first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1, in October 2007.

The Chang'e probes are named after the Chinese legendary goddess of the moon.

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