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China's moon probe may double life span due to fuel savings

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 6, 2007
The life of China's maiden lunar probe could be doubled since smooth operations during the 14-day flight have allowed the Chang'e I to save crucial fuel supplies, state press said Tuesday.

China's inaugural lunar probe signalled the Asian giant's growing space ambitions and its participation in a renewed race to explore the moon, pitting it against rivals Japan and India.

"So far, orbital transfers of the probe have all been done accurately," Bian Bingxiu of the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

"The precise ground manoeuvres and orbital transfers have saved a lot of fuel, which may prolong the probe's working time on its final orbit by around one year."

It was initially estimated that the life of the Chang'e I would be about one year.

After entering lunar orbit on Monday, the spacecraft braked for the second time on Tuesday and will need to do so one more time before entering its "working" or "final" orbit, the report said.

The lunar probe is scheduled to enter its final orbit on Wednesday, when the spacecraft will circle around the moon once every 127 minutes from a stable altitude of about 200 kilometres (125 miles) above the surface.

At that time, Chang'e I will begin its mission of photographing and mapping the lunar surface. Its first pictures are not expected to be transmitted until late in November.

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China's moon probe enters lunar orbit
Beijing (AFP) Nov 5, 2007
China's maiden lunar probe successfully entered the moon's orbit on Monday, officials said, a critical step in its year-long mission to photograph and map the surface of the celestial body.

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