September 10, 2010

China Planning Lunar Satellite Launch

State media said Friday that China is set to launch its second lunar satellite by year's end, as the country pursues its plans for a manned mission to the moon by 2020.

People's Daily said, citing Wu Weiren, a senior engineer overseeing the program, that preparations for the launch of the Chang'e-2 probe are going smoothly.

The paper said that the Chang'e-2 mission "is currently undergoing pre-launch testing and preparations -- the plan is to carry out a trial flight mission by the end of the year."

Space program officials told the paper that the mission would be launched in October, but no precise date has been given.

The report said that the lunar probe will test soft-landing and other technologies in preparation for the launch of the Chang'e-3, which is slated for launch in 2013 and aims to be China's first unmanned landing on the moon.

The Chang'e program is seen as an effort to put China's space exploration program on a track with the U.S. and Russia space programs.

China launched Chang'e-1 in October 2007 as part of China's ambitious three-stage moon mission.

According to state media, China's lunar program hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission foreseen in around 2020.

Previous reports said that Chinese scientists ultimately plan to build an observatory on the surface of the moon.

When Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003, China became the world's third nation to independently put a man in space after the U.S and Russia.

The Shenzhou-7 carried out China's first space walk in September 2008.

NASA has made six manned lunar trips since 1969.

Beijing has other Asian competitors as it tries to become the second nation to put a man on the moon.

A top official said in January that India was targeting a manned space mission in 2016.  Meanwhile, Japan launched its first lunar satellite in June last year.

Image Credit NASA


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