China launches Chang’e 2 lunar probe


China launched its second unmanned lunar exploration probe, Chang’e 2, on Friday from the province of Sichuan.

Chang’e 2 is part of a Chinese initiative to test skills and technology that could lead to unmanned landings in the future. The head of the orbiter’s design team was quoted by Xinhua as saying: “Chang’e 2 lays foundation for the soft-landing on the moon and further exploration of outer space. It (will) travel faster and closer to the moon, and it will capture clear pictures.”

China's second unmanned lunar orbiter (pictured) launched on Friday from the Sichuan province. Image: Spacebabe.

Launched in 2007, the preceding unmanned Chang’e 1 mission took around thirteen days to reach lunar orbit. Chang’e 2 is expected to take around five.

Once Chang’e 2 arrives at the moon, it is planned that the probe will be put into an orbit less than 100 kilometers from the surface as opposed to the 200 kilometer orbit of the previous Chang’e 1. The probe will then be put into a 15 kilometer orbit to survey possible landing sites for the unmanned Chang’e 3 mission.

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