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. China Publishes First Moon Picture

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao unveils the moon image captured by China's lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 during an unveiling ceremony at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 26, 2007. China published the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-1 on Monday morning, marking the success of the country's first lunar probe project. (Xinhua Photo)
by Quan Xiaoshu
Beijing (XNA) Nov 27, 2007
China published the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-1 on Monday morning, marking the success of the country's first lunar probe project. The framed black-and-white photo was unveiled by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The image showed a rough moon surface with scattered round craters both big and small.

The area covered by the picture, about 460 kilometers in length and 280 km in width, was located within a 54 to 70 degrees south latitude and 57 to 83 degrees east longitude, according to the BACC.

The area pictured was part of the moon's highland and was mainly composed of plagioclase, a common rock-forming element. On the surface were craters of different sizes, shapes, structures and ages, the BACC sources said.

"The dark patch in the picture's upper right side shows the surface blanketed by basalt, a hard and dense volcanic rock," the sources said.

Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, said the picture was very clear and of very good quality.

"It shows that the camera and the ground control and application systems are all working normally," said Sun at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

The picture was pieced together by 19 images, each covering a width of 60 kilometers on the moon's surface. The far right of the picture was the first area to be captured by the CCD camera aboardChang'e-1.

All the image data was collected on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 and processed into a three-dimensional picture in several days after being transmitted back to Earth.

"Chinese people's dream of flying to the moon for more than 1,000 years has started to materialize," said Wen in a passionate speech. He hailed China as one of the few world powers capable of conducting a deep-space probe.

The premier said that the lunar probe was the third milestone in China's space exploration, following the success of man-made satellites and manned space flights.

The success, he said, not only manifested China's rising national strength and technical innovation capability, but also elevated the country's international status and cemented national cohesion.

"It showcases eloquently that the Chinese people have the will, the ambition and the capability to compose more shining new chapters while ascending the science and technology summit," he said.

A congratulation letter jointly sent by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the State Council and the Central Military Commission gave a similar assessment and encouraged scientists and engineers to make further contributions to China's future deep space explorations.

During the celebration, work staff at a hall in the BACC where the picture was unveiled, played greetings and music decoded from the data transmitted back to Earth via the satellite.

"I come with greetings from China," said a female voice that was programmed into the Chang'e-1 probe to salute the moon.

The music broadcast included "The East is Red", which was also played in 1970 by the country's first man-made satellite, "Ode to the Motherland,", a tribute to the country's power and prosperity, and some moon-themed songs, such as Chinese pop diva Faye Wong's rendition of a famous Song Dynasty (960-1127) poem.

Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who, according to legend, flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March3A carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m. on Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

The 2,350-kg satellite carries eight probing facilities, including a stereo camera and interferometer, an imager and gamma/x-ray spectrometer, a laser altimeter, a microwave detector, a high-energy solar particle detector and a low-energy ion detector.

It aims to fulfill four scientific objectives. They include a three-dimensional survey of the moon surface, analysis on the abundance and distribution of elements on the lunar surface, an investigation of the characteristics of lunar regolith and the powdery soil layer on the surface, and an exploration of the circumstance between the Earth and moon.

The satellite traveled nearly two million kilometers in its 15-day flight to the moon and reached its final working orbit with a fixed altitude of 200 kilometers on Nov. 7.

"During the process, China has achieved a series of key breakthroughs in the orbit design, long-distance maneuvers, rocket blast off and data processing, which will both help promote technological innovations and evoke the nation's scientific exploration spirit," Sun Laiyan said.

Chang'e-1 was designed to stay on the orbit for one year, but scientists estimated that precise maneuvers may have saved 200 kg of the fuel and prolonged its lifespan.

The BACC will control the operation of the probe and all its facilities, in coordination with the ground application system, in the following period.

"The satellite will keep sending back various probing data, which we will share with scientists all over the world according to the international conventions," said a BACC official.

Sun Laiyan told reporters that a team consisting of more than 100 scientists and professors has been formed to make better analysis and use of the probing data.

"The moon study is a giant project that will consume a lot of energy and time. The research team includes eight experts from Hong Kong and Macao and we hope more scientists from Hong Kong, Macao and also Taiwan to participate in our lunar probing activities," Sun said.

The launch of Chang'e-1 came shortly after Japan launched its first lunar probe, Kaguya, in mid-September, while India is planning to send its own lunar probe into space next April, sparking off concerns of a space race in Asia.

But Sun Laiyan considered China's lunar probe project a demonstration of the country's faith in peaceful use of space and its openess.

"China has cooperated with European countries and Russia during the Chang'e-1 project, and is willing to expand the exchanges and cooperation in its following space explorations based on the principle of mutual benefit and peaceful use of outer space," he added.

The launch of Chang'e-1 kicks off the first step of China's three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon rover at around 2012. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research at around 2017.

earlier related report
Premier Wen: Lunar probe opens new chapter
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao asserted in a passionate and inspiring speech on Monday that China has joined the select group of world powers with the capabilities to engage in deep-space exploration.

After unveiling the first picture of the moon surface taken by Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe, Wen said that the dream of the Chinese people for more than 1,000 years of flying to the Moon had begun to materialize.

Wen said that lunar probe was the third milestone in China's space exploration following the successes of man-made satellites and manned space flights.

The success, he said, not only manifested China's rising national strength and technical innovation capability, but also elevated the country's international status and cemented national cohesion.

"It showcases eloquently that the Chinese people have the will, the ambition and the capability to compose more shining new chapters while ascending the science and technology summit," he said.

Citing a letter from an overseas Chinese, Wen said that the farther the China-made satellite flew, the higher would the overseas Chinese hold their heads.

Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who according to legend flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket on Oct. 24 shortly after Japan launched its first lunar probe, Kaguya, in mid-September.

The first high-definition image of the Earth rising was taken by Kaguya on Oct. 14. With India and the Republic of Korea planning to send their own lunar probes into space, concerns of a space race in Asia have arisen.

Looking to the future of China's three-step moon exploration which will lead to a moon landing and the launch of a moon rover around 2012 and the taking-back of lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research around 2017, Wen said that the initial success had "blazed a new trail and accumulated valuable experience" for China to improve its overall capability in science and technology.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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