China's New Moon Probe Arrives in Lunar Orbit
A Chinese Long March 3C rocket launches the unmanned Chang'e 2 lunar probe toward the moon on Oct. 1, 2010 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
China?s new moon probe arrived at its destination today (Oct.6) after firing its braking thrusters to enter into lunar orbit, according to state media reports.
The unmanned spacecraft Chang'e 2 is China's second moon orbiter. It entered a 12-hour orbit around the moon after completing a five-day trip from Earth, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
China launched Chang'e 2 toward the moon on Oct. 1 atop a Long-March-3C rocket from Sichuan province. The mission follows the successful flight of China's first moon mission, Chang'e 1, which crash-landed into the lunar surface as planned in March 2009.
Today's braking maneuver slowed Chang'e 2 and allowed it to enter an elliptical orbit around the moon, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center and Xinhua.? [10 Coolest New Moon Discoveries]
Two more maneuvers are planned to steer the probe into its final, 118-minute orbit.
The maneuver "laid a solid foundation" for Chang'e 2 to carry out science observations in its final orbit, BACC said in a news release, according to Xinhua.
This second lunar probe is slated to orbit closer to the moon ? at an altitude of about 60 miles (100 kilometers) above the surface, compared to Chang'e 1's height of 120 miles (200 km). Chang'e 2 also traveled to the moon much more quickly than its predecessor.
The new probe is the second stage in China's three-phase Chang'e moon exploration program, named after China's mythical moon goddess.
"As a major country, China has the responsibility to participate in the activities of outer space for peaceful use and make its own contributions," Qian Weiping, chief designer of the Chang'e 2 mission's tracking and control system, told Xinhua.
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