A "bold new mission" to the moon was launched today by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). The Chang’e-1 mission represents the first step in the Chinese ambition to land robotic explorers on the moon before 2020.
Chang’e-1 blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan, on a Long March 3A rocket.
The spacecraft is large, weighing in at 2350kg and it will operate from a low, circular lunar orbit, just 200km above the surface of the moon. From here, it will perform its science mission for a full year.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is collaborating with the Chinese on this mission by providing spacecraft and ground operations support services to CNSA.
Chang’e-1 aims to make three-dimensional images of lunar landforms and outline maps of major lunar geological structures. It is also designed to analyse the abundance of up to 14 chemical elements and their distribution across the lunar surface. Thirdly it will measure the depth of the lunar soil and lastly it will explore the space weather between the earth and the moon.
Hermann Opgenoorth, head of ESA’s Solar System Missions Division says, “Participation in Chang’e-1 gives European scientists and ESA experts a welcome opportunity to maintain and pass on their expertise and to continue their scientific work. Based on the experience gained with this first mission, we intend to cooperate on the next missions in China's Chang’e line of lunar explorers.”
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