First lunar satellite to lift off soon

Updated: 2007-02-04 08:57

The Chief Scientist of the lunar exploration program announced China will be ready to launch its first moon satellite soon at a scientific forum on Friday.

Beijing Morning Post reports Ouyang Ziyuan said the Chang'e I lunar satellite will orbit the earth three times after the launch, accelerating to a speed fast enough to allow it to escape the pull of gravity and head for the moon.

The chief scientist said the satellite will slow down as it nears its destination, then circle the moon three times before settling into the orbit planned for it.

The machines on the satellite will not work until the capsule is in the correct orbit, around half a month after the launch.

Ouyang said the time frame available for the launch is limited to just 35 minutes every month. He said the Chang'e I will lift off ahead just before the monthly time to avoid missing the opportunity.

The Chinese lunar project has been called Chang'e after an ancient Chinese legend about a beautiful young fairy who drank a magic potion, flew to the Moon and stayed to become the Goddess of the Moon.

The launch of the Chang'e I will mark the launch of the three stage Chinese lunar exploration project.

China plans to ship a moon-buggy onto the moon during the second stage and launch a recoverable lunar explorer in the third.

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