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UPDATED: 09:08, August 12, 2004
China to launch moon probe in 2 years
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China will launch its first lunar satellite in two years' time, the Beijing Morning Post has reported.

Dubbed the `Chang'e Project' after a Chinese fairy who flies to the moon, the first lunar orbiter will itself be called `Chang'e-I.'

All preparations are in full swing, vice-chief designer of the project Long Lehao said.

The announcement was made at the same time as reports began coming in about the ongoing success of the Double Star Programme test.

The Double Star mission, the first Sino-European project involving probe satellites, involves two probes, the TC-1 and TC-2, which fly in complementary orbits around the Earth.

All equipment is functioning well, says Sun Laiyan, director of the China National Space Administration.

TC-2 was launched from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in North China's Shanxi Province on July 25.

It will be tested until the end of September, he said.

The Double-Star and the Chang'e missions are China's latest moves into outer space.

The Double-Star mission will look at the causes of space storms and how safety in space travel can be improved.

The two satellites will operate alongside four others from the Cluster II project, a European venture which started in 2000 to study how solar winds affect the Earth.

Some information has already been collected and will be studied together with data from the TC-2, Sun said.

The Chang'e probe will involve landing an unmanned vehicle on the moon and scooping up moon dust to analyse later on Earth.

The fly-by, landing and return phases are expected to be completed within 20 years.

Sun said China will continue to co-operate with other countries in space science and exploration.

At the end of the year, officials from the European Space Agency are expected in China for further talks on space technology.

The Double-Star Programme has laid the foundation for future co-operation between China and Europe, he added.

Source: China Daily

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