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.
Credit: CALT

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.