China's Second Moon Probe to Launch This Weekend

China's First Moon Probe Crashes to Lunar Surface
An artist's interpretation of the China's Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter, which launched in October 2007 and ended its mission by crashing into the moon on March 1, 2009. (Image credit: CNSA.)

China plans to launch its second lunar probe this weekend,possibly as early as Friday (Oct. 1), according to the nation's official Xinhuanews agency.

On Thursday, workers will begin fueling the Long Marchrocket that will blast the unmanned Chang'e-2probe into space from Xichang Satellite Launch Center inSichuan province, Xinhua reported.

Launch will occur "at an appropriate time" betweenFriday ? China's National Day, when the country marks 61 years of Communistrule ? and Sunday (Oct. 3), according to Xinhua.

Chang'e-2 is the second step in China's three-phase Chang'e moonexploration program, which is named after China's mythical moon goddess.Chang'e-2 will test out technology and collect data on possible landing sitesfor the Chang'e-3 spacecraft, which is scheduled to land on the moon in 2013,Xinhua reported.

According to the state news agency, Chang'e-2 should arriveat lunar orbit about five days after launch. It will eventually swoop down toan orbit just nine miles (15 km) above the lunar surface to takehigh-resolution pictures of landing areas for Chang'e-3.

After snapping the photos, Chang'e-2 will retreat to analtitude of about 62 miles (100 km) to conduct a study of the lunar surface anddirt.

The Chang'e-1 probe ?launched in October 2007 and conducted a16-month moon observation mission, after which it crash-landedon the lunar surface by design, in March 2009.

Chang'e is just one prong of China's burgeoningspace program, which has seen three successful manned spaceflights,including the nation's firstspacewalk on the most recent mission, the Shenzhou 7 flight of 2008.

Weather forecasts for the Xichang area this weekend are for overcastskies with possible showers, Xinhua reported.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.