The circumlunar satellite Chang'e-1 blasted off on a Long March3A
carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m., Oct.24 from the No. 3 launching tower in the
Xichang Satellite Launch Center of southwestern Sichuan Province.
BEIJING, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- China's lunar probe Chang'e-1 completed its
third orbital transfer on Monday afternoon, one more step forward in its
1,580,000-km journey to the moon.
Instructions for the orbital transfer was issued by the Yuanwang-3 space
tracking ship in south Pacific at around 5:56 pm.
At around 6:01 pm, the probe was successfully transferred to a 48-hour
orbit with an apogee of 120,000 km, up from the former 70,000 km.
It will stay on the orbit until Oct. 31, when it is expected to enter the
earth-moon transfer orbit, a critical point that may determine whether the
satellite can fly to the moon successfully or not, according to experts at the
Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).
Ultraviolet image sensors installed on the satellite will begin to work to
collect information on the earth and the moon after it enters the 48-hour orbit,
Wang Yejun, chief engineer with the BACC told Xinhua.
It's the first time that an ultraviolet image sensor is put into actual use
on a satellite, though a few countries had tested them on the ground, Wang said.
The images Chang'e-1 collects will be transmitted back to the earth when it
enters the lunar orbit, Wang said.
Since Saturday, surveillance posts, on land and sea, and four astronomical
observatories have kept watching over Chang'e-1. According to the data received
so far, all systems of the satellite have been working normally.
The lunar probe completed its first orbital change on Oct. 25, in which it
was transferred to a 16-hour orbit with a perigee of about 600 km from 200 km.
The probe completed its second orbital transfer on Oct. 26, which made it
move on a 24-hour orbit with an apogee of 70,000 km, up from the former 50,000
Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who, according to legend,
flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March3A carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m. on
Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of
The 2,300-kg satellite is expected to arrive in the moon's orbit on Nov. 5.
It carried eight probing facilities, including a stereo camera and
interferometer, an imager and gamma/x-ray spectrometer, a laser altimeter, a
microwave detector, a high energy solar particle detector and a low energy ion
It will fulfill four scientific objectives, including a three-dimensional
survey of the Moon's surface, analysis of the abundance and distribution of
elements on lunar surface, an investigation of the characteristics of lunar
regolith and the powdery soil layer on the surface, and an exploration of the
circumstance between the earth and the moon.
The satellite will relay the first picture of the moon in late November and
will then continue scientific explorations of the moon for a year.
China's lunar orbiter project has cost 1.4 billion yuan (187 million U.S.
dollars) since research and development of the project was approved at the
beginning of 2004.
The launch of the orbiter marks the first step of China's three-stage moon
mission, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon rover at around
2012. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to
earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research at around 2017.
China carried out its maiden piloted space flight in October 2003, making
it only the third country in the world after the former Soviet Union and the
United States to have sent men into space. In October 2005, China completed its
second manned space flight, with two astronauts on board.
The launch of Chang'e-1 came shortly after Japan launched its first lunar
probe, Kaguya, in mid-September, while India is planning to send its own lunar
probe into space next April, sparking off concerns of a space race in Asia.
But Luan Enjie, chief commander of China's lunar orbiter project, said that
"China will not be involved in moon race with any other country and in any
"China will, in the principle of pursuing a policy of peaceful use of
airspace, share the achievements of the lunar exploration with the whole world,"
he told Xinhua.