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China to launch 2nd lunar probe before end-2011


China will launch a second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, before the end of 2011, an official said on November 12, while announcing the start of the second stage of the country's moon mission.

Chang'e-2, part of the second phase of the Lunar Probe Project, will conduct experiments involving five core technologies such as orbital adjustments and soft landings, according to Chen Qiufa, director of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The probe will improve upon the design of Chang'e-1, the first lunar probe, Chen told reporters.

Also on November 12, China published its first full lunar map, based on data sent back by Chang'e-1, which blasted off last October from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Another lunar probe, the Chang'e-3, will be launched during the second phase of the project by a Long March 3B carrier rocket, Chen said.

Chang'e-3 is designed to carry out missions including soft landings and inspection of the lunar surface, Chen said without elaborating.

The launch of Chang'e-1 was the first step in the country's three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon rover in 2012 or thereabouts. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to Earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research in about 2017.

"Chang'e" is named after a legendary Chinese moon goddess.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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