Beijing: China will launch its second moon
orbiter next October, state media reported today, as it powers
ahead with a space programme that has sparked concerns abroad.
"It will orbit 100 kilometres (62 miles) closer to the
moon and be equipped with better facilities," the official
China Daily quoted Ye Peijian -- chief designer of Chang`e-1,
the country`s first lunar probe -- as saying.
"We expect to acquire more scientific data about the moon
with increased accuracy."
The Chang`e-2 mission will carry out tests in preparation
for a lunar landing and an unmanned rover on the moon`s
surface, expected to be launched before 2013, the report said.
A manned mission is planned around 2020.
China`s first lunar probe was launched in October 2007,
signalling the Asian giant`s rising space ambitions.
China has long maintained that rapid development of its
space capabilities is peaceful in nature, but recent comments
by air force commander Xu Qiliang sparked widespread concern
that Beijing had other ideas.
Xu told state press earlier this month that China`s armed
forces should prepare for the "inevitable" militarisation of
outer space -- a claim that was hastily disavowed by President
Chang`e-2, named after a legendary Chinese goddess who
flew to the moon, has an improved carrying capacity. Its
camera also has a higher resolution than its predecessor, the