China's second lunar probe ready for lift-off

08:26, September 28, 2010      

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China's second lunar probe, the Chang'e-2, is set to blast off from Xichang, Sichuan province, with the launch possibly taking place on the National Day, media reports have said.

The launch rocket, CZ-3C, has been erected with the Chang'e-2 on top, totaling nearly 80 meters in length. As of Saturday, the whole launch system had gone through three pre-launch maneuvers, Guangzhou Daily reported.

Chief commanders of the five sub-systems of the Chang'e-2 program have all reportedly arrived in the city to make final preparations for the second lunar exploration. They will continue to carry out pre-launch tests as well as the fourth and final maneuvers before the launch.

The Chengdu Business Daily quoted launch center staff as having said that, barring complications, the probe is likely to blast off from the No 2 launch pad on Oct 1 at the earliest.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Center has been in operation for 40 years, during which time it has carried out 59 missions and successfully sent 57 satellites into orbit.

If successful, the Chang'e-2 probe will become the 58th satellite to be launched from the center, Guangzhou Daily reported.

According to the newspaper, Xichang is currently shrouded in clouds and rain, but the sky is forecast to clear up starting on Thursday.

Local tour agencies plan to cash in on the occasion, offering a one-day tour for 800 yuan ($119), which includes watching the launch of the second lunar probe within 3 kilometers of the site.

The launch center was due to draw up an evacuation plan on Monday. As a safety precaution, all residents within 2.5 km of the site will be required to vacate the area as the rocket carrying the probe blasts off, Chengdu-based West China Metropolis Daily reported.

Chang'e-2 will test key soft-landing technologies for the Chang'e-3 and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area, space authorities said.

"It is estimated Chang'e-2 can reach lunar orbit within five days, compared to 13 days, 14 hours and 19 minutes for Chang'e-1," Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist at the China Lunar Exploration Project, told Xinhua News Agency.

Chang'e-2 will also orbit 100 km closer to the moon and carry a higher resolution camera, he added.

The country's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, named after China's mythical Moon Goddess, was launched on Oct 24, 2007, from Sichuan province. Its 16-month mission ended on March 1, 2009, when it crashed into the moon's surface.

According to China's three-phase moon exploration road map, the country will launch the Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter and then land Chang'e-3 on the moon in 2013. It is hoped that a sample of moon rock can be brought back to Earth in 2017.

Source:China Daily


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