report: China launches first lunar orbiter
BEIJING, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- China's first lunar orbiter Chang'e-1
will adjust its posture to get positioned to the moon late on Monday night, and
activate probing facilities aboard afterwards to get ready for scientific
exploration, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Sunday.
The satellite has gone through a number of tests since it entered the
127-minute round polar circular orbit at an altitude of 200 km above the moon's
surface on Nov. 7, according to Pei Zhaoyu, the spokesman for CNSA.
"All the tests indicate Chang'e-1 is working properly," said Pei,
"and the satellite is in a very good state."
"The power supply is stable; its posture and temperature is under
normal control; and its communications with the earth is smooth," Pei told
After Monday's maneuvers, the satellite will officially kick off
scientific exploration of the moon.
During the process, it will also position its solar panel towards the
sun for power generating and the directional antenna towards the earth to allow
data to be transmitted back to the earth.
The 2,350-kg satellite carried eight probing facilities, including a
stereo camera and interferometer, an imager and gamma/x-ray spectrometer, a
laser altimeter, a microwave detector, a high energy solar particle detector and
a low energy ion detector.
The satellite is expected to relay back its first picture of the moon
in late November.
The satellite aims to fulfil four scientific objectives, including a
three-dimensional survey of the Moon's surface, analysis of the abundance and
distribution of elements on lunar surface, an investigation of the
characteristics of lunar regolith and the powdery soil layer on the surface, and
an exploration of the circumstance between the earth and the moon.
Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who, according to
legend, flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket at 6:05
p.m. on Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern
province of Sichuan.
The satellite traveled nearly two million kilometers in its 15-day
flight to the moon before it reached its final working orbit.
Chang'e-1 is designed to stay on its final working orbit for one
year, however, Chinese scientists estimated that smooth operations and precise
maneuvers may have saved 200 kg of fuel and help prolong the probe's life span.
The launch of the orbiter kicks off the first step of China's
three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon
rover at around 2012. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon
and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research at
China's lunar orbiter project has cost 1.4 billion yuan (187 million
U.S. dollars) since research and development of the project was approved at the
beginning of 2004.