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Moon orbiter blastoff

Updated: 2007-10-29 07:16
(China Daily)

China took a big step forward in space exploration last Wednesday by launching its first lunar orbiter, Chang'e I.

Moon orbiter blastoff

"It marks another milestone in China's space program," said Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Developed with indigenous technology, the 1.4 billion yuan mission is considered the third milestone in the country's ventures into space, following the launch of its first satellite in 1970 and two manned missions in the past five years.

"This was a truly perfect launch. If I were to rate it, I would give it a 100 out of a 100," said Zhou Jianliang, a deputy chief engineer at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

Chang'e I, named after a legendary Chinese fairy that flew to the moon, is expected to enter the Earth-moon transfer orbit on October 31 and reach the moon's orbit on November 5.

It will circle around the moon for a year to analyze its chemical and mineral composition and to explore the characteristics of the lunar surface.

It will use stereo cameras and X-ray spectrometers to map three-dimensional images of the surface and study the moon's dust.

The satellite is expected to transmit its first photos back to Earth in the second half of next month.

It is the first step of China's three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a moon landing of a rover around 2012. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to Earth with soil and stone samples for scientific research around 2017.

(China Daily 10/29/2007 page2)

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