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China's Chang'e-2 lunar probe successfully reaches trajectory

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The Chang'e-2 spacecraft was launched on Friday. A Xinuha photo

BEIJING (PTI): China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2, was maneuvered to correct its trajectory on the earth-moon transfer orbit on Saturday, a day after it was launched as part of an ambitious space programme to put a man on the moon later this decade.

Scientists successfully activated the altitude control engines on Chang'e-2 and trimmed the satellite for the first time on its journey, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

"During Chang'e-2's 380,000-km journey to the moon, we will conduct more orbit corrections if necessary to ensure that it enters a lunar orbit," said Ma Yongping, vice director of the flight control centre in the capital.

China, which seeks to put a man on the moon, launched its second unmanned lunar probe Friday to test soft-landing technologies for a mission slated for 2013, the same year when India plans to launch Chandrayaan-II.

Chang'e-2 blasted off on a Long-March-3C carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province.

It is China's first unmanned spacecraft to be boosted from the launch site directly to the earth-moon transfer orbit, greatly reducing the journey time from that of its predecessor Chang'e-1.

Chang'e-1 took about 13 days to travel to a lunar orbit after orbiting the earth in a geosynchronous orbit and then transferring to the earth-moon transfer orbit.

Chang'e-2 is expected to travel for about 112 hours, or almost five days, to arrive in a lunar orbit.

To acquire more detailed moon data, the spacecraft will enter a lower lunar orbit about 100-km above the surface, compared with the 200-km altitude of Chang'e-1, according to the control centre.

The satellite will eventually be maneuvered into an orbit just 15 kilometer above the moon.

At that point, Chang'e-2 will take pictures of moon's Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang'e-3, with a resolution of 1.5 metres.

The resolution on Chang'e-1's camera was 120 metres, Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project said.

Under a three-phase moon exploration roadmap, China will land Chang'e-3 on the moon in 2013 while its first manned moon mission is expected in 2025.

In comparision to India, China had a headstart by flying a man into space in 2003, thus becoming the third nation only after the US and the then Soviet Union.

India, whose Chandrayaan-1 had discovered water on the moon, plans to launch its Chandrayaan-II mission in 2012-13.

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