Published online 24 October 2007 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2007.194

News in Brief

China Moon mission lifts off

China's unmanned lunar probe launches on schedule.

China has successfully launched its first lunar probe.

The 2,350-kilogram Chang'e 1 was launched today atop a Long March 3A booster from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center of southwestern Sichuan province. The satellite is carrying a camera and instruments to map the lunar surface, as well as a gamma/X-ray spectrometer to study radioactive isotopes.

The spacecraft, named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon, won't be a scientifically groundbreaking mission, according to André Balogh, a professor of space physics at Imperial College London.

Instead, the spacecraft's primary objective will be to give the Chinese an opportunity to try their hand at orbital insertion manoeuvres and deep-space communication. "This will be more of a learning mission," he says.

Japan launched a lunar orbiter last month (see Japanese Moon satellite launched) and India is planning a mission for early 2008. China is also planning a lunar lander and sample-return mission, ultimately leading to a human base on the Moon. 

See Nature's 2006 tab/060828-11T1.html">guide to upcoming Moon missions

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