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China sets proper, historic position for space exploration
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16:16, October 25, 2007

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· China's Lunar Exploration Program
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China launched its first lunar probe on Wednesday or October 24, the first step into its ambitious three-stage moon mission, signifying a new milestone in its space exploration history with a giant, substantial leap of quality attained in spaceflight technology.

From Satellite Dongfanghong-1 to Chang'e-1

The Chinese nation is one of those first nations on earth looking up to the outer planets. Such popular legends as "Chang'e, a legendary Chinese goddess, flying into the moon" and Emperor Minghuang or Xuanzhong of Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) touring the (splendid) moon palace", give expressions to the earliest human aspiration to ascend the moon.

The "Chang'e Project" constitutes an inevitable outcome of the development of China's space technology and it will inject new vigor and vitality into the endeavor of the humankind for exploring the outer space and the universe as a whole.

China has developed space technology by leaps and bounds at a amazing speed since the founding of new China in 1949 and the subsequent launch of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. The manned spaceflight of October 2005, in particular, shows to the world that the country has a fairly great capability for spaceflight.

It represents a common objective as well as a pursuit of humanity to venture into the outer space and explore its mystery. The United States, Russia and a few other nations have carried out more than 100 moon exploring probes. So China should, too, contribute to the explorations into the moon and theouter space naturally. And it should merge its space program into the global spaceflight setup and involve itself directly into the activities of the humanity to probe the secrets of the universe.

As the third new milestone in the cause of China's space exploration, the Chang'e project has represented a process of natural development. The successful development of big rockets with a great lift capacity provided a powerful prop for the ongoing project, which has converged scientists majored in the space, astronomical, lunar and other galaxy bodies and scattered mostly in colleges and universities, science research institutions or observatories.

Opportunities coexit with challenges. The satellite Chang'e-1 has to effect some 10 transfers of orbits and each such transfer should be very accurate and precise. So the "Chang'e Project" poses a challenge, the very one the Chinese have to face in their entry into the outer space.

"A step that starts late, but with a higher starting point"

The Project of Chang'e, popularly known in China as the moon lady, has made some innovations in the course of exploration while inheriting the experience of predecessors from overseas.

Humankind has completed more than 100 lunar-probing feats with both positive, successive experience and painful lessons to draw from. Lunar-probing worldwide has some ensuing avenues. One venue is to sweep over the moon and approach its surface before flying away without adopting speed-reduction emergency brakes, and the other is designed to strike the moon's surface and realize a lunar-orbiting probe in a later stage and, to proceed to gradually develop the lunar landing, recovery and other related technologies.

The designing of the Chang'e-1 project has been affirmed based on the objective of the engineering science and the country's existing sophisticated technological attainments and carrying capacity. Though it is a step that starts late, but from a starting point at a much higher height. The first step is to orbit the moon; the second is to define a clear-cut scientific task and, the third is to realize within a short period the goal of proceeding from the moon orbiting.

It took China only a little over a three-year period from putting the project under the central government's authorized plan in 2004 to the execution of its current blast-off. Technologies relating to satellites and rockets and other mature technical know-how, the country acquired, are utilized fully to help accomplish the set task as quickly as possible.

China's lunar probing has its own distinct hallmarks but with very different goals from other nations. The country adopts the method of external limit gauge with a fairly great gauge density, by which data attained from the polar zones represents a beneficial supplement to the lunar exploration and, therefore, it means an aspect of innovation.

The outer space exploration involves very great risks. Most of the nations concerned were not so successful with their initial endeavors for lunar exploration, and Chinese experts have drawn some useful reference and enlightenment from the relevant data they have collected from other related explorations.

If the most terrible period of the earth's history is compared to "a single day", then the "last 20 seconds of the last hour" of that day "are wombed", according to a metaphor with a sense of science. In other words, the humankind is still in a stage of infancy. In these brief "20 seconds", the humankind has begun to fly to the outer space after riding itself of the "yoke of the earth." Hence, people have an ample reason to believe that they are sure to uncover all mysteries of the universe ultimately in a matter of one hour or ten hours.

By People's Daily Online

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