Space Mission

Future of Chang'e-2 lies in one of three directions

Updated: 2010-10-01 16:18
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BEIJING - Chang'e-2, the lunar satellite that is set to be launched late Friday, might end up in one of three different places after it accomplishes its six-month mission, said the chief designer of Chang'e-2 satellite system.

Chief designer Huang Jiangchuan said that unlike Chang'e-1, Chang'e-2 would be directly carried to the lunar orbit by rocket, so a large amount of fuel would be left after its mission, enabling it to do more work.

Huang said scientists and technicians were considering three possible extra missions, but no final plans were yet decided.

The first was staying in the lunar orbit, continuing to transfer data back to the earth for further research before eventually landing on the moon as an experiment for future lunar probes.

In the second scenario, Chang'e-2 would leave the Earth-Moon system, flying into outer space to test China's capability to probe further into space.

The third would be a "homecoming," altering its orbit to become an earth orbiter.

Huang said its future would be decided on the basis of its performance in the designated mission and its condition when the mission was completed.

Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) announced Friday that Chang'e-2 was scheduled to blast off at 6:59:57 p.m. Friday from the center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The lunar probe will test key technologies and collect data for future landings of Chang'e-3 and Chang'e-4, and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area.

Chang'e-2 was built as an alternative to Chang'e-1, which was launched in October 2007 and maintained a 16-month lunar orbit. The series of Chang'e probes is named after a legendary Chinese moon goddess.