China Ready to Launch First Lunar Satellite
October 17, 2007
Chang’e 1 is slated to launch onboard a Long March 3A rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan on October 24 at 6:05 p.m. (10:05 GMT) as part of their lunar exploration program.
Chang’e 1, a lunar orbiter, is named after a Chinese goddess in a popular Chinese tale who lives on the Moon. The orbiter was designed as one of the stages in China’s long-term space program.
Chang’e 1 was based on China’s Dongfanghong 3 telecommunication satellite platform and reportedly caries a 280-pound payload of science instruments for its one-year mission. Chang’e 1 will be carrying eight primary instruments to photograph and map the lunar surface, probe its depth, study the regolith’s chemical composition, and analyze the space environment around the Moon. Among the eight instruments, Chang’e 1 will carry a CCD stereo camera that will produce three-dimensional images of the lunar surface by compiling three separate, two-dimensional views of the target area. A laser altimeter will also be onboard to take precise measurements of the lunar surface, as well as gamma-ray and X-ray spectrometers to detect the contents and distribution of a number of chemical elements on the lunar surface.
In order to reach the Moon, Chang’e 1 is expected to launch spaceward into a high elliptical orbit that comes within 372 miles (600 kilometers) of Earth at its closest point. The flight plan then calls for a series of maneuvers to gradually allow it to climb into higher orbits for departure to the Moon.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) plans to follow Chang’e 1 with a lunar lander in 2012, a third satellite to reach the Moon and bring back mineral samples in 2017, and a permanent space laboratory by 2020.
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Last updated January 30, 2008