As part of its ambitious plans to put a man on the moon, China today launched its second unmanned lunar probe to test soft-landing technologies for another mission slated for 2013, the same year when India plans to launch Chandrayaan-II.
After a text book launch of the probe ‘Chang’e II’ around 4.30 pm IST on the country’s 61st National Day on 1.10.2010, the rocket successfully placed the lunar orbiter in its intended orbit in 20 minutes, prompting the scientists at the launch centre to break into loud cheers.
The Chinese satellite was launched by a 54.84-metre Long March 3C rocket, weighing about 345 tonnes from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province in a nationally televised event.
The rocket carried Chang’e II, named after Chinese mythical moon goddess, to a trans-lunar orbit, which has an apogee of about 380,000 kilometres from the earth. The satellite is expected to take about 112 hours, or nearly five days, to arrive at its lunar orbit.
Chang’e II was expected to orbit 100 km above the moon, compared with 200 km of its predecessor Chang’e I, the first lunar probe launched by China in 2007. The probe ended its 16-month mission in 2009, when it crashed into the moon’s surface.
‘Chang’e-II was expected to be faster and reach lunar orbit within five days, compared to 13 days, 14 hours and 19 minutes for Chang’e-1, Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist at the China Lunar Exploration Project, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
China has not been to the moon before the country launched Chang’e-1, so we were very prudent at that time and adjusted its orbit in a very slow manner. We can send Chang’e-II directly to the moon and we have also changed the orbit for it, so it can reach lunar orbit within five days, Ouyang said.
In addition, Change-II will orbit 100 km closer to the moon and carry a higher resolution camera.
Chief designer of the satellite, Huang Jiangchuan, said that unlike Chang’e I, Chang’e II would be directly carried to the lunar orbit by the rocket, so a large amount of fuel would be left after its mission, enabling it to do more work.
The first scenario for it was to stay in the lunar orbit and continue to transfer data back to the earth for further research before eventually landing on the moon as an experiment for future lunar probes.
In the second scenario, Chang’e II would leave the Earth-Moon system, flying into outer space to test China’s capability to probe further into space.
The third would be a homecoming, altering its orbit to become an earth orbiter, the designer said, adding that its future would be decided on the basis of its performance in the designated mission and its condition when the mission is completed.
The lunar probe will test key technologies and collect data for future landings of Chang’e III and Chang’e IV and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area.
According to China’s three-phase moon exploration road map, the country will first launch the Chang’e-II lunar orbiter. Then it will land Chang’e-III on the moon in 2013.
The first manned moon mission was expected to be in 2025.
Chang’e-II will test key soft-landing technologies for the Chang’e-III and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area.
Facts and figures about China’s second lunar probe Chang’e II
Following are some facts and figures of China’s second unmanned lunar probe, Chang’e II, which was blasted off on 1.10.2010 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
Chang’e II was built as an alternative to Chang’e I, which was launched in October 2007 and maintained a 16-month lunar orbit.
Chang’e II will test key technologies and collect data for future landings of Chang’e III and Chang’e IV, and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area.
Chang’e II satellite weighs 2.48 tonnes.
The designed life of Chang’e II is six months, compared with one year for Chang’e I.
The spatial resolution — the distance between two points that an imaging system can distinguish — of the newly-developed camera carried by Chang’e II will be around 10 meters, compared with 120 meters for that on Chang’e I.
The launch vehicle for the satellite will be China’s Long March 3C rocket, which is 54.84 meters long and with a lift-off weight of 345 tonnes.
The delivery capacity of the rocket is 3.8 tonnes.
The rocket will carry Chang’e II to a trans-lunar orbit, which has an apogee of about 380,000 kilometres from the earth, and then the satellite is expected to take about 112 hours, or nearly five days, to arrive at its lunar orbit.
Chang’e I took 12 days. Chang’e II will orbit 100 kilometres above the moon, compared with 200 kilometres for Chang’e I.
Total expenditure for the Chang’e II mission is about 900 million yuan (USD 134.33 million).
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