Friday, February 22, 2008

China to launch Chang'e-II in 2009

AFP Beijing
China hopes to launch its second moon-orbiting satellite in 2009, state media reported Friday, as the country steps up its space programme.

The news came after scientists regained contact with the country's first lunar satellite Chang'e-1 following a four-hour blackout, Xinhua news agency said.

Ye Peijian, the chief commander of Chang'e-1, did not elaborate on his announcement of the follow-up mission.

Change'e-1 is currently making a three-dimensional survey of the moon, and collecting data on the make-up of its surface, the report added.

The control centre lost contact with the satellite for four hours on Thursday, as it moved into a shadow area caused by Earth blocking out the sun, the report added.

In November, Premier Wen Jiabao hailed the first photo from the probe as evidence of China's rise as a space and technological power, and said it showed the country's dream of flying to the moon was beginning to materialise.

Chang'e-1 is the first stage of a programme that aims to land an unmanned rover on the moon by 2012 and put a man there by about 2020.

Beijing said it planned to launch a record number of spacecraft this year, state media reported Tuesday.