Friday, October 01, 2010

China launches second probe to moon

China has successfully launched its second lunar probe which is set to map Earth's neighbour and take photographs to 10 metre resolution. The Long March 3C rocket with the Chang'e 2 probe took off from Xichang launch centre at 18:59:57 Beijing time [10:59:57 GMT].

Chang'e 2 achieved a speed of 6,000 m/s some 7 minutes into its flight reaching 7,000 m/s as it passed over Taiwan. The main engines on the second stage boosters were shut down 11 minutes into the mission. The third stage was ignited 118 km above the Earth as the rocket was tracked over the Pacific Ocean nearly 21 minutes after launch. Successful separation of Chang'e 2 probe from the main booster rocket was initiated 25 minutes into the flight sending the probe to the moon. It is expected to arrive after 112 hours, a little under 5 days, cutting the journey time by more than half of Chang'e 1 with took around 12 days.

Named after a Chinese moon goddess, the 2.48 tonne Chang'e 2 probe will orbit the moon at 100 km during its 6 month mission. The probe will be used to test the technologies and collect data for future landings. The spacecraft may even fly as low as 15 km in order to identify possible landing sites for manned missions, Xinhua News Agency reported [Chinese Lunar Exploration Program].

Chang'e 2 is China's second lunar probe. Chang'e 1 was launched in 2007 and stayed in orbit for 16 months before being intentionally crashed on to the lunar surface. China has also been successful in its manned missions to date. It launched its first manned flight into low-Earth orbit in 2003. Two more followed, with the most recent one in 2008. 

Apart from CCTV News, only BBC and Sky News dipped in to show launch coverage of Chang'e 2 though both channels missed the actual lift-off coming in as pictures switched to the mission control room. CNN, Al Jazeera, Press TV, RT, France24, NHK and Euronews did not cover the launch live, though later reports and respective websites did highlight the launch.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

No comments: