Wednesday, October 24, 2007

China and US launch space missions

Chang'e heads to the Moon and Discovery heads to the ISS

China today launched its first mission to the moon with State television showing pictures of the Chang'e 1 orbiter taking off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in southwestern China. It comes soon after Japan succesfully put a probe into Lunar orbit [BBC / CNN]. The space probe, Chang'e 1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, will orbit Earth while technical adjustments are made, and will enter the moon's orbit by Nov. 5. India is also set to launch a probe next April. Meanwhile the US sent up its own space craft yesterday. Space Shuttle Discovery was launched on Tuesday, despite earlier concerns for the integrity of its wings [CNN]. It was a text book launch leaving Kennedy at 15:38 GMT [11:38 local time] [BBC]. Its seven-strong crew will install the "Harmony" node to the space station.
The connecting unit will provide a passageway to the European Columbus laboratory, which is set to be fitted to the orbiting outpost in December. Before they undertake this part of the mission they will check for any damage to Discovery’s heat-shield. At least 6 pieces of foam fell away from the fuel tank upon launch and has caused catastrophic damage in the past [CNN]. This week China expressed its desire to join the continuing project with [CNN]. "We hope to take part in activities related to the international space station," said Li Xueyong, a vice minister of science and technology. "If I am not mistaken, this program has 16 countries currently involved and we hope to be the 17th partner." Neither the US government or NASA have commented on the matter as yet.
[China National Space Administration / CNSA / NASA].

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