China Launches First Moon Probe
In this photo released by China's official Xinhua news agency, China's first moon orbiter Chang'e 1 lifts off from the launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan province, on Wednesday October 24, 2007.
Credit: AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Gang.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, China successfully launched its first lunar probe on Wednesday.

The Chang'e I blasted off at about 6:05 pm on a Long March 3A carrier rocket from the No. 3 launching tower in the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The mission is named after a Chinese goddess who, in a popular fairy tale, lives on the Moon.

Chang?e 1 is based on China?s Dongfanghong 3 telecommunication satellite platform and reportedly carries a 280-pound (127-kilogram) payload of science instruments for its planned one-year mission.

The spacecraft carries a total of eight primary instruments to photograph and map the lunar surface, probe its depth, study the regolith?s chemical composition, and analyze the space environment around the Moon.

According to the mission description, Change?1 carries two basic imagers.

A CCD stereo camera will produce three-dimensional images of the lunar surface by compiling three separate, two-dimensional views of each target area. Meanwhile, the probe?s interferometer spectrometer imager is expected to overlay optical measurements with spectra to depict the regional distribution of resources and materials.

Chang?e 1 will also carry a laser altimeter to take precise elevation measurements of the lunar surface, as well as gamma/X-ray spectrometers to hunt out and measure the amount of up to 14 elements ? among them iron, potassium, uranium and titanium.

A microwave detector will bounce signals down to the Moon?s surface, operating on four different frequencies to determine the lunar regolith?s depth, while a high-energy solar particle detector and low-energy ion instrument ? Chang?e 1?s space environment monitor system ? measures the solar wind environment, according to the CNSA mission description.

A payload data management system rounds out Chang?e 1?s instrument package. Also riding to the Moon aboard the lunar probe are some 30 songs, among them Chinese folk songs and ?The East is Red? ? China?s national anthem ? Xinhua reported in November.

The launch is the first step into the country?s three-stage moon exploration plan.

According to Xinhua Chinese space experts, technicians and other work staff, were joined by experts from Japan, Germany and other countries to observer the launch process.

The circumlunar satellite is expected to enter the Earth-moon transfer orbit on October 31 and arrive in the moon's orbit on November 5.

The satellite will relay the first pictures of the moon in late November and will then continue scientific exploration for a year.