China launches mission to the Moon
Oct 25, 2007 3 comments
China has launched its first mission to the Moon in a bid to map major geological features of the lunar surface and gather information on radioactive isotopes. The unmanned spacecraft will orbit the Moon and is the first of four planned stages that will eventually see China land robotic explorers on the Moon in 2020.
The satellite is named Chang’e 1 after the Chinese goddess of the Moon and was launched yesterday from the Xichang centre in the province of Sichuan, south west China.
Weighing over 2300 kg, the spacecraft is carrying a variety of instruments that will help it map the lunar surface including a CCD camera and imaging interferometer. The presence of radioactive isotopes on the surface will be detected by a gamma-ray spectrometer and a high-energy particle detector. Chang’e 1 will operate 200 km above the surface of the Moon in a low circular orbit and will perform measurements for one year.
The launch is the latest move in an Asian space race. Last month Japan launched a lunar probe, which is currently in orbit around the Moon. India plans to launch a satellite early next year with the aim of creating a high resolution 3D map of the Moon’s surface.
About the author
Michael Banks is news editor of Physics World