China to launch moon probe next April
By Liu Dan (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2006-05-17 16:37
China's first lunar satellite may be launched during a fly-by mission in
April in 2007, said Luan Enjie, director of the China National Space
Administration on Tuesday, May 16.
Luan Enjie, chief
commander of China's lunar orbiting program, speaks at a lecture on
the development of China's space flight and moon probe at the China
University of Geosciences in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province on May
16, 2006. [cnhan.com]
"The first lunar
orbiter which has been under construction from early 2006 is expected to be
tested at the space launch center in December. And the orbiter will be launched
next April if everything functions well", the Wuhan-based Changjiang Daily
quoted Luan as saying.
The moon probe project will achieve three firsts for space exploration. The
lunar orbiter will finish the five-hour fly-by without detection from the
ground, it will receive signals from the moon using the world's smallest antenna
and it will find the best surveying station for approaching the moon.
Luan, also chief commander of China's lunar orbiting program, was speaking at
a lecture on the development of China's space flight and moon probe at the China
University of Geosciences in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province.
"During the last two years, scientists have made great achievement in moon
probe research and the main engineering roadblock has been tackled", Luan said.
The programme is dubbed the "Chang'e Project," and the first lunar orbiter is
named "Chang'e-I," referring to an ancient Chinese legend about the fairy
Chang'e who flies to the moon.
With funding of 1.4 billion yuan (US$169 million), the orbiter, based on
China's Dongfanghong III satellite platform and other mature satellite
technology, will be launched atop a Long March 3-A rocket, according to Luan.
The satellite would obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface,
analyze the content of useful elements and materials, and probe the depth of the
lunar soil and the space environment between the earth and the moon.
The lunar probe project will be divided into three phases: sending a
satellite to orbit the moon by 2007, landing an unmanned vehicle on the moon by
2010 and collecting samples of lunar soil with an unmanned vehicle by 2020.
"Only after we finish the three phases can we carry out the manned satellite
project to probe the moon", said Luan.