Beijing: China`s second unmanned lunar probe, Chang`e-II, was maneuvered today to correct its trajectory on the earth-moon transfer orbit, 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-II`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 yesterday to test soft-landing technologies for a mission slated for 2013, the same year when India plans to launch Chandrayaan-II.
Chang`e-II 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-II is expected to travel for about 112 hours, or almost five days, to arrive in a lunar orbit.
To acquire more detailed moon data, Chang`e-II 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-II will take pictures of moon`s Bay of Rainbows area, the proposed landing ground for Chang`e-III, 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-III 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.