Saturday, 2 October 2010

China Launches New Lunar Probe Chang'e 2 to Scout the Moon's 'Bay of Rainbows'

China successfully launches Chang´e 2

Chief Designer: Getting closer to the moonPlay Video

China Launches Second Robotic Moon Probe
By SPACE.com Staff
posted: 01 October 2010
09:28 am ET














An unmanned moon probe blasted off from China Friday (Oct. 1) to begin the country's next phase of lunar exploration and set the stage for even more ambitious spaceflights to come.

The Chinese moon probe, called Chang'e 2, launched at 6:59:57 a.m. EDT (1059:57 GMT) from the Xichang Space Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province, according to state media reports. It should take about five days for the spacecraft to enter orbit around the moon.

The Chang'e 2 spacecraft soared into space atop one of China's Long March 3C rockets. It launched on Oct. 1, National Day in China – a holiday that commemorates the 61st anniversary of Communist rule in the country. 

Chang'e 2 is the second step in China's three-phase Chang'e moon exploration program, which is named after China's mythical moon goddess. Chang'e 2 will test out technology and collect data on possible landing sites for the Chang'e 3 spacecraft, which is scheduled to land on the moon in 2013, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency has reported.

According to media reports, the mission has a cost of about $134 million.

Chang'e 2  will eventually swoop down to an orbit just 9 miles (15 km) above the lunar surface to take high-resolution pictures of landing areas for the Chang'e 3 mission, Xinhua has reported.

After snapping the photos, Chang'e 2 will retreat to an altitude of about 62 miles (100 km) to conduct a study of the lunar surface and dirt. 

The Chang'e 1 probe launched in October 2007 and conducted a 16-month moon observation mission, after which it crash-landed on the lunar surface by design, in March 2009. 

The Chang'e missions are just one prong of China's burgeoning space program, which has seen three successful manned spaceflights, including the nation's first spacewalk on the most recent mission, the Shenzhou 7 flight of 2008. 

China's New Lunar Probe to Scout the Moon's 'Bay of Rainbows'
By SPACE.com Staff
posted: 01 October 2010
03:45 pm ET
When the unmanned moon probe launched by China today (Oct. 1) arrives at its destination next week, it will target a specific zone on the lunar surface to scout out future landing sites, the country's state-run media reports. 

The robotic Chang'e 2 spacecraft will take a close look at the moon's Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridium, which has been proposed as a potential landing site for China's next moon-bound mission, the Xinhua News Agency reported today.
Chang'e 2 will send back high-resolution photos of the region to help mission planners pick the best landing targets for Chang'e 3 – the probe that is expected to make China's first unmanned moon landing in 2013. 

"The geological structure in this area is diverse, so a probe there would have greater scientific value," Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, told Xinhua. 

The Bay of Rainbows is approximately 147 miles (236 kilometers) wide. Its coordinate location is around 44 degrees north latitude and 31 degrees west longitude. 

Four or five areas have been identified as possible landing grounds for the Chang'e 3 spacecraft, Wu said, but the Bay of Rainbows is the current frontrunner, Xinhua reported. 

"Other places on the moon have already been landed on, so we want to choose one that has not been explored before," he said. "Previously, most lunar programs landed around the equator of the moon, an area easier for monitoring and control maneuvers, but Chang'e 3 will take on greater challenges." 

Chang'e 2 launched at 6:59:57 a.m. EDT (1059:57 GMT) from the Xichang Space Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province, according to state media reports. 

It should take about five days for the spacecraft to enter orbit around the moon. 

After snapping the photos, Chang'e 2 will retreat to an altitude of about 62 miles (100 km) to conduct a study of the lunar surface and dirt. 

The Chang'e 2 mission follows on the success of China's first lunar probe, Chang'e 1, which launched in October 2007 and ended its flight in March 2009. Chang'e 1 crashed into the moon after completing its mission. 

China is also the third country after Russia and the United States to launch manned spaceflights. The country has launched three manned space missions using its Shenzhou spacecraft, most recently the Shenzhou 7 flight of 2008. That mission included China's first three-person spaceflight and China's first spacewalk.
 

A Chinese Long March 3C rocket stands poised to launch China's second moon mission, the Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter, on Oct. 1, 2010. Credit: CALT

A Chinese Long March 3C rocket launches the unmanned Chang'e 2 lunar probe toward the moon on Oct. 1, 2010 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Credit: CALT

An unmanned Chinese Long March 3C rocket blasts off with the unmanned Chang'e 2 lunar probe toward the moon on Oct. 1, 2010 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The mission is China's second lunar exploration flight ever. Credit: CALT



An artist's illustration of a lunar sample return mission, the third phase of China's planned decade-long Moon exploration plan, slated for 2017. Credit: CNSA. Click to enlarge.