China's 1st lunar probe to activate probing facilities on Monday 2007-11-18 17:44:20   Print

Special 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 Xinhua.

    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 around 2017.

    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. 

Editor: Du Guodong
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