Fan base grows as project progresses

Updated: 2013-11-27 06:38

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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China's lunar exploration program has made tremendous advances over the past decade, piquing the public's interest with its extraordinary expeditions.

Chang'e-2, the nation's second lunar probe, has traveled more than 60 million km from the Earth and become China's first spacecraft to reach an asteroid, said Wu Zhijian, spokesman for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Speaking at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday, Wu said that Chang'e-2's journey is a new milestone in the country's deep-space exploration.

The probe is now "in a good condition" and will continue its journey deeper into space, he said.

Chang'e-2 was launched on Oct 1, 2010, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province and later orbited the moon to conduct a more extensive exploration than its predecessor, Chang'e-1, which was launched on Oct 24, 2007.

Since blastoff, Chang'e-2 has set several records, including creating a map of the moon with the highest resolution to date and circling the Lagrangian Point L2, a point of neutral gravity on the side of the moon furthest from the sun.

Fan base grows as project progresses

Its achievements laid the foundation for future deep-space exploration tasks.

The launch of the circumlunar satellite Chang'e-1 made China the fifth country in the world to independently launch lunar orbiters.

In addition, China successfully completed its latest manned space mission in June, when three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit around Earth and docked with an experimental space laboratory critical in China's quest to build a working space station by 2020.

Chinese scientists have begun to discuss the possibility of sending a man to the moon sometime after 2020.

These consecutive successes have led to a fever of anticipation as scientists make preparations for the Chang'e-3 mission. Members of the public enthusiastic for space exploration have taken part in an online campaign to solicit a name for China's first lunar rover.

Tens of thousands of Internet users in China and around the world took part in the month long event, which started in late September, submitting more than 193,000 names for the rover, according to Li Benzheng, deputy commander of the country's lunar exploration program.

Ten names were chosen for the shortlist before Yutu, meaning "Jade Rabbit", was finally selected by netizens, who cast nearly 3.5 million votes over a period of 10 days, Li said.

"The name, Jade Rabbit, represents both the traditional culture of the Chinese people and China's principle of the peaceful development of the space," he added.

The probe series as a whole is named after Chang'e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese legend.

Internet users said they are excited by the country's ongoing lunar explorations.

"Time flies. I can clearly remember the image of Chang'e-1, which I saw on TV when I was in middle school," wrote one space enthusiast who goes under the name Mzhuizhu on his Sina Weibo micro blog.

"Now comes the Chang'e-3, and it totally amazes me by its fantastic capability."