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China to launch lunar orbiter by late 2007
Updated: 2004-11-26 09:32

China will launch its lunar orbiter Chang'e 1 to explore the moon's environment and study the thickness of its soil by the end of 2007, according to a senior space official.

Sun Huixian, deputy chief engineer at the Center for Space Science and Applied Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Beijing also has plans to send two more unmanned missions by 2010.

"Chang'e 1 is slated to be launched towards the end of 2007 and the dates are not decided," Huixian told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference in this northern Indian city of Udaipur.

"So far no manned missions to the moon are planned," he said.

The spacecraft weighing 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) will carry a payload of 100 kilograms including a lunar altimeter, gamma X-ray spectrometer, microwave radiometer and space environment monitor system.

The altimeter will measure the distance between the spacecraft and the moon surface at a given point of time while the spectrometer will study the radioactivity of the moon, Huixian said.

"Microwave radimeter is used for calculating the thickness of lunar soil and the monitor system will map solar winds," he said.

By 2010 China plans to send a lander to the moon and another mission will collect samples from the lunar surface and return to the earth.

Huixian said during the 2007 mission China did not want to take payloads from other countries as it was a "test mission."

"We do not want other nations to take a risk as this is our first lunar mission. I hope it succeeds," he said.

The five-day International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon ends Friday. More than 200 delegates from 16 countries are participating in the conference which is expected to come out with a declaration calling for cooperation in space.

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