Wash., D.C. (UPI) Oct 1, 2010
NASA new direction of sending astronauts to the asteroids or Mars doesn't mean a return to the moon is out of the question, the U.S. agency's deputy head says.
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said the moon has a role to play in the new space exploration plan set by President Barack Obama and approved by Congress this week.
"Lunar science and lunar exploration is alive and well in NASA," Garver told SPACE.com.
Obama's plan cancels NASA's moon-oriented Constellation program, initiated by former President George W. Bush, which sought to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.
But the moon is a symbol of inspiration for many people in part because of NASA's manned lunar landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the moon is also the most visible of off-world destination to the public, Garver said.
"I just won't agree that this ends the moon as a destination," Garver said. "We look up in the night sky and see the moon and it is an inspiration to us all.'"
The NASA authorization bill approved by Congress outlines the need for the United States "to sustain a human presence in space," Garver said.
"And the moon is part of any long-term sustainable presence in space," Garver said.
earlier related report
A Long March 3C rocket carrying the Chang'e-2, which is due to go into orbit within 15 kilometres (nine miles) of the moon, blasted off from the launch centre in Xichang in the southwestern province of Sichuan, state media said.
China Central Television briefly showed images of the rocket blasting off into the night sky -- a few seconds after lift-off -- before shifting to scenes inside the launch centre and computerised models of the rocket's flight.
The unmanned probe 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.
"Chang'e-2 lays a foundation for the soft-landing on the moon and the further exploration of outer space," the official Xinhua news agency quoted the chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project, Wu Weiren, as saying.
"It travels faster and closer to the moon, and it will capture clear pictures."
The probe successfully entered its trans-lunar orbit, Xinhua said. It will take five days for the Chang'e-2 to arrive at its lunar orbit.
It will first circle the moon at a distance of 100 kilometres, before hopefully dropping into orbit 15 kilometres from the moon's surface.
The control centre declared the launch a success, Xinhua said, after the solar panels of the probe were unfolded and the satellite began to use solar energy for power supply.
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 on 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.
The launch day was symbolic as it is China's National Day, which marks Mao Zedong's proclamation of the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.
People arrived early to watch the take-off, an employee at the launch site's tourism department, who refused to be named, told AFP.
"A stand has been built for them, and tickets cost 800 yuan (120 dollars)," she said, adding the whole area had been sealed off.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the formerly poverty-stricken nation.
It became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently -- after the United States and Russia -- when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.
In September 2008, the Shenzhou-7, piloted by three astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.
The Americans have achieved the only manned lunar missions, making six trips from 1969 to 1972.
Beijing has other significant Asian competitors to reckon with as it vies to become the second nation to put a man on the moon.
India landed a lunar probe in 2008, and a top official said in January it was targeting a manned space mission in 2016. Japan, meanwhile, launched its first lunar satellite in June last year.
Earlier this year, China postponed the next step in its space station programme -- the placement of the Tiangong-1 space module in orbit -- until 2011 for technical reasons, state media reported.
The Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," is seen as the building block of China's maiden space station. Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, it would provide a "safe room" for astronauts to live in and conduct research in zero gravity.
After being placed in orbit, the Tiangong-1 would dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in the country's first space docking -- a feat to be controlled remotely by scientists on the ground.
Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, carrying two to three astronauts, would dock with the orbiting module in successive years, officials have said.
The International Space Station began with the launch into orbit of the first station element, a Russian-built module, in 1998. The first full-time crew arrived two years later.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more
New Australian footage of Neil Armstrong's moon walk
Sydney (AFP) Sept 28, 2010
Long-lost footage of Neil Armstrong descending the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar module will be screened in public for the first time in Sydney next week, a prominent astronomer told AFP. The footage runs for a few minutes and is considered to be some of the best footage of the historic 1969 moonwalk, but the film was lost in archives for many years and was badly damaged when found, said Joh ... read more
Opportunity's Surroundings After Sol 2363 Drive|
Atmosphere Checked, One Mars Year Before A Landing
Martian Moon Phobos May Have Formed by Catastrophic Blast
First Results From Herschel Mars Observations
Hello, Saturn Summer Solstice: Cassini's New Chapter
Cassini Dives Inside Saturn's Radio Aurora
New Views Of Saturn's Aurora
Cassini Gazes At Veiled Titan
The Longest Space Mission
Uranus may have been cosmic 'pinball'
Flying To The Edge
Picture-Perfect Pluto Practice
Hot Atmosphere Of Venus May Cool Planet's Interior
Venus Lightning Sparks Interest Among Scientists
Japanese Spacecraft Approaches Venus
Recreating Venus In The Lab
Global Consortium Of Space Agencies To Meet At USGS
Indian Satellite To Check Greenhouse Gas And Aerosol Emissions
Google brings 'Street View' to Antarctica
NASA Satellites See Nicole Become A Remnant
U.K. predicts 'spaceplane' in 10 years
Successful Static Testing Of L 110 Liquid Core Stage Of GSLV 3
Danish rocketeers abort launch attempt
Technical glitch grounds homemade Danish rocket
Slow-Motion Giants Carry Shuttles To Pad
Fuel tank for final shuttle in Florida
Shuttle ready for move to launch pad
NASA To Ship Fuel Tank For Last Planned Shuttle Flight
International Partners Update Launch Manifest
Expedition 25 Crew At Work, Waiting For Three New Members
Soyuz crew admit to disappointment at delayed landing
Russian spacecraft lands safely after delays
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|