September 28, 2010

China Makes Final Launch Preparations For Lunar Probe

State media reported Tuesday that China is making final preparations to launch its second lunar probe, possibly as soon as Friday, when the country marks 61 years of communist rule.

The official China Daily reported that a launch rocket carrying the Chang'e-2 has been set up in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

It said that chief program engineers have arrived at the satellite launch center in the city of Xichang to carry out final tests.  The launch could take place on October 1, assuming the staff finds no complications.

State media reported that the lunar probe will conduct different tests in preparations for the expected launch in 2013 of the Chang'e-3, which 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 par with those of the U.S. and Russia.

China launched Chang'e-1 in October 2007.  That lunar probe orbited the moon and took high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface.

According to state media, the country hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission foreseen in around 2020.

China became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.