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China to launch Chang'e-3 around 2013

(Xinhua)

15:42, September 23, 2011

National authorities said on Wednesday that China will launch the Chang'e-3 around 2013, marking the first time for a Chinese spacecraft to land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.

The mission will also mark the first step of the second stage of China's three-phase lunar exploration program, although a timetable for a manned moon landing has yet to be announced.

The probe's mission is to land safely on the moon and carry out a number of scientific experiments, according to sources with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

China began its quest for the moon in October 2007, when it launched its first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1. The probe went into orbit around the moon, transmitting pictures of the moon's surface back to Earth before crashing to the surface at the end of its mission under the direction of Chinese scientists.

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 administration.

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 traveled from the moon's orbit to its current position. It will carry out exploration activities around the L2, such as monitoring high energy particles and solar winds.

Li Chunlai, one of the 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.

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