A Chinese lunar orbiter
06 April 2007




Senior Chinese space officials recently demonstrated plans to explore the Moon.


The Chinese lunar exploration program includes sending a lunar orbit to the Moon this year. The orbiter, known as Chang'e-1, will produce 3-D images of the Moon; study the surface chemical composition and the lunar space environment.


This mission will be followed by a lunar lander in 2012 and a sample-return mission in 2017. The program's ultimate goal is sending Chinese astronauts to the Moon.


In October 2003, China became the third country to send astronauts into space on its own efforts. On 15 October 2003, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei flew into space aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, on the first Chinese manned space mission. Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times, at an average altitude of 334 km. The mission lasted about 21 hours.


In Chinese, Shenzhou means the "Divine Vessel". Interestingly, an asteroid was named Shenzhou, in honor of the historic spacecraft. Chinese astronauts are known as Taikonauts in Chinese. Chang'e is the mythological Chinese lunar deity.


Further reading

Chinese Space Agency


Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem

Senior Astronomy Specialist    


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