China's lunar orbiter off to new space horizon

08:38, June 10, 2011      

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China's Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter bid farewell to the moon yesterday on its way to a remote region of outer space to carry out further research.

The country's second lunar orbiter thus becomes China's furthest traveled space probe on record.

The solar-powered probe, launched on October 1 last year, was still in good condition after finishing its six-month mission on April 1, China Central Television said yesterday, quoting the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The orbiter left its lunar orbit at 4:50pm yesterday and will take 85 days to reach its next goal, the "2nd Lagrangian point," an ideal place for outer space tests, CCTV said.

The point is about 1,500,000 kilometers from Earth and relatively unaffected by gravitational forces.

Many Western countries have set up space observatories at the point.

The new position could provide valuable information for a future Mars probe, space expert Pang Zhihao told the Beijing Youth Daily.

Zhou Jianliang, deputy designer of the control system of the orbiter, told China National Radio yesterday: "If the orbiter can stay at the point by the end of next year, it means that China will be able to do outer space activities there."

Zhou said the probe would test some key technologies of China's outer space probe and lay a firm foundation for the country's further outer space research.

The new position would be a great challenge for the orbiter's satellite and control system, because the orbit was new, the distance from Earth long and the preparation time was short, Zhou said.

The Chang'e-2 entered its lunar orbit on November 3, 2010 and has sent back a great deal of scientific data.

China will be able to land two to three astronauts on the moon by 2025, with its south pole the most likely landing site, Long Lehao, deputy chief engineer of the Chinese lunar exploration program program, said.

China's first unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-1, was launched in 2007.

It provided high-resolution images of the surface of the moon and provided estimates of our nearest neighbor's reserves of helium-3, an isotope that can be used in nuclear fusion and is considered a future energy source for mankind.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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