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Beijing, China (XNA) Oct 04, 2010
China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2, was maneuvered to correct its trajectory on the earth-moon transfer orbit Saturday.
Scientists successfully activated the attitude control engines on Chang'e-2 and trimmed the satellite for the first time on its journey, according to a flight control official in Beijing.
"During Chang'e-2's 380,000-km journey to the moon, we will conduct more orbit corrections if necessary to ensure that it enters a lunar orbit," said Ma Yongping, vice director of the flight control center.
Chang'e-2 blasted off on a Long-March-3C carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, at about 7 p.m. Friday.
It is China's first unmanned spacecraft to be boosted from the launch site directly to the earth-moon transfer orbit, greatly reducing the journey time from that of its predecessor Chang'e-1.
Chang'e-1 took about 13 days to travel to a lunar orbit after orbiting the earth in a geosynchronous orbit and then transferring to the earth-moon transfer orbit.
Chang'e-2 is expected to travel for about 112 hours, or almost five days, to arrive in a lunar orbit.
To acquire more detailed moon data, Chang'e-2 will enter a lower lunar orbit about 100 km above the surface, compared with the 200-km altitude of Chang'e-1, according to the control center.
The satellite will eventually be maneuvered into an orbit just 15 kilometer above the moon. At that point, Chang'e-2 will take pictures of moon's Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang'e-3, with a resolution of 1.5 meters. The resolution on Chang'e-1's camera was 120 meters, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project.
American expert on national security affairs Joran Johnson-Freese said China clearly had two very significant and very organized space exploration programs in Chang'e and Shenzhou: Chang'e focusing on robotic exploration of the moon and Shenzhou on human spaceflight.
"Though currently separate, they seem clearly intended to eventually be linked toward a human spaceflight mission to the moon. Chang'e-2 will take China one step closer to that eventual goal," said Johnson-Freese, who is a professor with Naval WAR College.
"A Chinese manned spaceflight mission to the moon would be a clear demonstration of techno-nationalism which has economic and geo-political implications," he said.
John M. Logsdon, a professor emeritus on political science and international affairs, said as China's second mission beyond low Earth orbit, Chang'e 2 would give China more experience in the difficult tasks of robotic exploration.
"The moon is important in China's culture and beliefs, and thus is an important symbolic destination. It is also the easiest destination to reach as China begins exploring the solar system," said Logsdon, a former director of the Space Policy Institute.
Through developing its lunar probe program, China was joining "with the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan, and India. Going to the moon is a mark of a leading space program," he said.
The launch of Chang'e on a Long March 3C carrier rocket from southwest China's Sichuan Province on Friday, China's National Day holiday, also attracted wide attention from foreign media.
The launch inaugurated the second phase of a three-step moon mission, which would culminate in a soft-landing on the moon.
AP said the launch of an unmanned lunar probe was the latest milestone for an ambitious space program that aimed to put a man on the moon later this decade.
The probe plans to test technology in preparation for an unmanned moon landing in 2012, with a possible manned lunar mission to follow in 2017, the report said.
Reuters said a successful Chang'e-2 mission would mark another advance in China's plan to establish itself as a space power in the same league as the United States and Russia.
AFP said China celebrated the 61st anniversary of its founding with the launch of its second lunar probe - the next step in its ambitious program to become the second country to put a man on the moon. The report also reviewed China's achievements in space programs, including the Chang'e-1 and Shenzhou spacecraft.
Source: Source: Xinhua
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