October 17th, 2007 01:48 EST
China to launch 1st moon orbiter in late October
A senior Chinese official said in Beijing Tuesday that researchers and technicians are making final preparations for the launch of the country's first moon orbiter, Chang'e I, at the end of October.
Zhang Qingwei, minister in charge of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), who is attending the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an interview with Xinhua.
Zhang said his team has nearly finished pre-launch tests on the rocket and orbiter, which have been transported to the launch site.
Advanced cameras and X-ray spectrometers have been installed in the orbiter for mapping three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyzing dust on the moon, and studying the space environment between the Earth and the moon.
"The appropriate time for the launch is in April and October. We finally choose October with the consideration of weather and celestial conditions," he said.
"China's moon exploration project is for peaceful use of space," Zhang said. "We're now equipped with high technologies in doing our own research."
The next step in the ambitious mission is to launch a moon vehicle, and then get it back, Zhang said.
Sending the first astronaut into space with the Chinese-made spaceship Shenzhou V in 2003, China became the third country, next to the Soviet Union and the United States, to carry out manned space mission.
The Chinese government has included the moon adventure in 16 key state science projects by the year 2020.
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