China unveils photos of moon

China on Monday unveiled photos taken by its lunar probe of the moon`s Sinus Iridium.

Beijing: China on Monday unveiled photos taken by its lunar probe of the moon`s Sinus Iridium, the area marked out for the nation`s first landing, highlighting the success of the mission so far.

The photos of the moon`s surface, made public by Premier Wen Jiabao, were taken at the end of last month by the Chang`e-2 unmanned probe, the National Space Administration said in a statement.

Chang`e-2 was launched on October 1 and went into orbit eight days later. It was due to first circle the moon at a distance of 100 kilometres (62 miles), and then drop into orbit 15 kilometres from the moon`s surface.

The images of Sinus Iridium, also known as the Bay of Rainbows, show the surface is "quite flat" with craters and rocks of different sizes. The biggest hole has a diameter of two kilometres, according to the statement.

The bay was formed by a massive impact billions of years ago, and is considered one of the moon`s most beautiful landmarks.

Chang`e-2 will conduct various tests over a six-month period in preparation for the expected launch in 2013 of the Chang`e-3, which China hopes will be its first unmanned landing on the moon.

The Chang`e programme, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is seen as an effort to put China`s space exploration programme to a par with those of the United States and Russia.

The first lunar probe, launched in October 2007, was in orbit for 16 months.

Beijing hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission pencilled in for around 2020, according to state media.

Bureau Report

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