Chinese scientists prepare for mission to the moon 2006-07-26 07:44:51

    BEIJING, July 26 -- Chinese scientists are assembling, integrating and testing to ensure that the mission of the nation's first lunar explorer, Chang'e-1, goes smoothly, a top space official said yesterday.

    "Fundamental development has been achieved in all five related systems ranging from the satellite, the rocket, tracking and control, ground applications and the launch centre since it was approved two years ago," said Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration.

    The lunar orbiter is scheduled to blast off next year from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Sun said at the ongoing eighth International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) Conference in Beijing.

    Sun said the satellite will sketch a three-dimensional lunar map and analyze the content of the surface. It will also measure lunar soil and analyze the conditions between the Earth and the moon.

    Sun described the project as an important step toward China's exploration of deeper space, and he said the moon will provide a good platform from which to explore.

    The satellite project is part of the country's ambitious three-stage lunar programme. The next phase will be the landing of an unmanned vehicle on the moon in 2010.

    Sun also disclosed that China is planning to set up a panel of experts on the scientific application of the fruits of the Chang'e programme.

    "The data collected during the mission of Chang'e-1 will be open to Chinese scientists at home," said Hao Xifan, vice-director of the CNSA Lunar Exploration Programme Centre. "Furthermore, China will seek more mutually beneficial co-operation with other countries in lunar studies."

    The European Space Agency, which had launched the orbiting lunar satellite SMART-1 (which stands for small missions for advanced research and technology) in September 2003, will collaborate on the Chang'e programme, said Bernard Foing, director of ILEWG and ESA's chief scientist.

    The exploration of the moon has reawakened worldwide interest in recent years.

    "Six countries are planning missions to the moon, and it's important we discuss exploration and technological requirements so we can optimize science and learn more about the moon," Narendra Bhandari, chairman of ILEWG, said at a sideline press conference.

    Besides China's Chang'e-1, Japan will launch its SELENE (selenological and engineering explorer) orbiter, India its Chandrayaan-1 and the United States a lunar reconnaissance orbiter to the moon in 2007-08, he told reporters.

    (Source: China Daily)

Editor: Liu Dan
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