Fri, November 27, 2009
Sci-Tech > Science

China to launch second lunar orbiter in 2010

2009-11-27 13:46:15 GMT2009-11-27 21:46:15 (Beijing Time)  Global Times

The model of the lunar probe Chang'e-2

China will launch its second lunar probe Chang'e-2 in October 2010, according to a top Chinese space scientist Thursday.

The second lunar orbiter will carry payloads and orbit the moon that will be different from the country's first lunar probe, said Ye Peijian, chief designer of the first lunar probe.

"It will orbit 100 km closer to the moon and be equipped with better facilities. We expect to gain more accurate data about the moon," he said.

Engineers have upgraded the technology for Chang'e-2's new mission, even though it was previously the backup probe for Chang'e-1. The vehicle now boasts a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera which has a much higher resolution than the camera on Chang'e-1, and the payloads on board have been improved.

Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist with China's lunar exploration team, said Chang'e-2's systems were undergoing "match-up and drills" and everything has gone well, he said during an interview Wednesday.

Ye also said on Chang'e-2's mission, tests will also be carried out to prepare for the lunar-lander and rover called Chang'e 3.

Chang'e-3, is also well on its way towards liftoff. The project is in the prototype stage and its launch is set for before 2013, Ye said at the third International Conference on Space Information Technology in Beijing Thursday.

Chang'e-3 is scheduled to be launched from a Long March 3B rocket at the Xichang satellite launch center in Sichuan Province before 2013. Currently, Chang'e-3 has passed the planning stage and is in the prototype phase. And the Sinus Iridium (Bay of Rainbows) on the Moon has been decided as the landing site for Chang'e-3, according to Ye.

The scientific objectives of the project include investigating the Moon’s landscape and exploring its geological structure. The mission will also help China study the material composition of the Moon and search for usable resources.

Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 are part of the second phase of China's lunar exploration program which was launched in 2007. China put an unmanned probe, Chang'e-1, into lunar orbit on October 24, 2007 and it transmitted pictures of the moon's surface on November 26, 2007.

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