China: One step closer to the Moon

( China Daily ) - China announced on Friday that its Moon probe project has entered the launching phase, and the satellite and the carrier rocket are ready for launch.

The China National Space Administration said on Friday that the first lunar orbiter, Chang'e I, and the carrier rocket, a Long March 3-A, have both passed testing.

The launch site, testing system and ground application system have also been completed for launch.

With all systems go, the leading team for the Moon exploration project gathered a mobilization meeting on Friday and announced the project had entered a new stage.

"The project will be a milestone in our space technology," Zhang Yunchuan, minister of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence, told the meeting.

"It is our first attempt in exploring the Moon with technology wholly developed on our own."

He quoted Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan's words, asking all participants to continue working hard to guarantee the project a complete success.

Zhang didn't specify the launch date.

Initiated in January 2004, the Moon exploration project is regarded as the third milestone in China's space technology venture after successful satellite and manned spacecraft projects.

The Moon orbiter, Chang'e I, will provide 3D images of the Moon's surface, probe the distribution of 14 usable elements on the Moon, study lunar microwaves and estimate the thickness of the Moon's soil, earlier reports said.

This is only the first phase of China's Moon probe program.

The entire program is divided into three phases - "circling the Moon", "landing on the Moon" and "back to Earth".

After the launch of the orbiter in the first phase, China will launch a Moon rover in the second phase, and launch another rover in the third phase, which will land on the Moon and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples.

China has also set a goal of landing spacemen on the Moon within 15 years, Xinhua News Agency quoted a leading scientist as saying in March.

China carried out its maiden piloted space flight in October 2003, making the country the third in the world following the former Soviet Union and the United States to have put men into space. In October 2005, China sent its second manned spacecraft into space, with two astronauts on board.

China is one of the few countries that are capable of developing navigation satellite systems on its own.

Previous reports quoted by Xinhua News Agency said it will provide clients with positioning accuracy within 10 meters, velocity accuracy with 0.2 meter per second and timing accuracy within 50 nanoseconds.

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