China Tests Radio Tracking For Moon Probe
China is readying a set of radio telescopes to monitor that country's first lunar orbiter--Chang'e 1--according to Li Yan, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Yunnan Observatory.
A monitoring project has successfully demonstrated that China is capable of detecting and tracking its future Moon-orbiting satellites. Spread out in distance from each other, the radio dishes are set up in Beijing, Shanghai, the southwestern Yunnan Province, and the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In a June 20 report from the Xinhua news agency in China, the testing was done in an agreement between CAS and the European Space Agency (ESA) that is now operating its SMART-1 spacecraft as it circles the Moon.
According to Xinhua, Wang Min, chief scientist in charge of the telescope test project, said the test lasted five days in accordance with an agreement between CAS and ESA. Every four hours, the satellite circled the Moon and the telescopes were able to detect half the orbit, or about two hours.
The Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter is to be lofted toward the Moon on a Chinese Long March booster next year.
China's Moon probe is based upon that country's Dongfanghong III satellite platform and other technology. Chang'e 1 is on track to be tested at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in December. If the probe's readiness is green-lighted it will be launched in April 2007.
Chang'e 1 will be outfitted with a stereo camera system to chart the lunar surface, an altimeter to measure the distance between the spacecraft and the lunar surface, a gamma/X-ray spectrometer to study the overall composition and radioactive components of the Moon, a microwave radiometer to map the thickness of the lunar regolith, and a system of space environment monitors to collect data on the solar wind and near-lunar region.
Earlier this year, Luo Ge, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) visited the United States, outlining his nation's Moon agenda. Chang'e 1 is the first step in a multi-phase lunar exploration effort.
Luo stated that China also intends to land a rover on the Moon's surface by 2012, followed by a robotic lunar sample return mission in 2017.
Chinese space officials were reported earlier this month as saying that a human mission to the Moon by China is slated by 2024.
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