November 8, 2010

China Releases Photos Of Moon Taken By Chang’e-2

On Monday, China is reported to have released photos that its lunar probe took of the spot the nation picked out for its first landing on the moon.

The National Space Administration said in a statement that the photos of the moon's surface were taken at the end of last month by the Chang'e-2 unmanned probe.

The probe was launched October 1 and went into orbit eight days later.  It was expected to first circle the moon at a distance of 62 miles, and then drop into orbit just 9 miles from the moon's surface.

The images were taken of the part of the moon known as Sinus Iridium, which is also known as the Bay of Rainbows.  According to the statement, the surface is "quite flat" with craters and rocks of different sizes, and the biggest hole has a diameter of about 1.2 miles.

The bay was formed by a massive impact billions of years ago, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful landmarks on the surface of the moon.

Chang'e-2 will conduct various tests over a six-month period in preparation for the expected launch in 2013 of the Chang'e-3.

The Chang'e program is seen as an effort to bring China's space exploration program up to par with the U.S. and Russia.

The first lunar probe was in orbit for 16 months after launching in October 2007.

According to the nation's media, Beijing hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission also planned for 2020.


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