Chinese scientists have successfully tested the ability of four super radio telescopes to monitor a moon-orbiting satellite, sources with the project announced on Friday.
The project aimed to test the joint function and ability of the radio telescopes, which would monitor China's first moon-orbit program scheduled for launch in 2007, sources with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said.
The moon satellite detected and tracked by the super telescope belongs to European Space Agency (ESA).
The monitoring project had successfully proved that China was able to detect and track moon-orbiting satellites, according to Li Yan, director of the CAS Yunnan Observatory.
With diameters ranging from 25 to 50 meters, the telescopes set up in Beijing, Shanghai, the southwestern Yunnan Province, and the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers apart from each other.
They would form a comprehensive earth-based research and survey network that was capable of detecting, tracking and retrieving data sent from China's first moon-orbiting satellite, Li said.
China plans to launch its first moon-orbiting satellite in 2007 and to make an integrated global survey of the moon.
The successful test of radio telescopes further increased confidence in being able to control the satellite, he said.
Wang Min, chief scientist in charge of the telescope test project, said the test lasted five days in accordance with an agreement between CAS and ESA. Every four hours, the satellite circled the moon and the telescopes were able to detect half the orbit, or about two hours.
"China's super telescopes started work from when the moon could be first seen at about 7:00 a.m. and continued till it disappeared from the visual field," Wang said.
Whatever the weather or the cloud cover, the telescopes detected and tracked the satellite for an average 10 hours each day, he said.
"This is a great step towards our dream of flying to the moon," Wang said.
Wang also revealed that the first moon-orbiting satellite would be named Chang'e, after a beautiful woman in the Chinese fairy tale "Chang'e Benyue", who takes a magic medicine to enable her to fly to the moon where she stays.
If Chang'e is launched successfully, China plans to send its own moon probe by 2012 to collect samples for scientific research before returning to Earth in 2017. .