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Emily LakdawallaApril 5, 2011

Chang'E 2 update: primary mission successful

For months I've had no information about China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter for my monthly "What's Up" updates, and that's finally changed. Chang'e 2 completed its six-month nominal mission on April 1, and there were a couple of news stories in Chinese media about its nominal mission (successful), its current status (healthy) and its future destination (uncertain, or at least not stated publicly).

There are two updates in English, one from the People's Daily Online and one from the Xinhua news agency.

Chang'e 1

Chang'e 1

The first article says that the spacecraft is "normal and stable" and that it "has fully realized its given project targets."

The Xinhua article says that Chang'e 2's images of Sinus Iridum, shot from near the spacecraft's perilune of 15 kilometers, have yielded five possible landing sites for a Chang'e 3 soft lander and rover, planned for launch in 2013.

As for the future of Chang'e 2, it is "sufficiently stocked with fuel, which will enable the orbiter to further survey the Moon for one or two more years. It might even fly beyond its trajectory to outer space, places previously not reached by Chinese spacecraft." One potential destination in space for Chang'e 2 is one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points.

If this update has made you think about the Moon a little bit, I'd also like to remind you that most people do not know that the Moon is visible in daytime. (This kind of astonishes me because I've always known it was visible in daytime, and both my 2-year-old and my 4-year-old regularly spot it in the sky.) Anyway, via Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's twitter feed comes this link to some resources for educators to help kids (and their teachers and parents!) understand the Moon's sky motions, daytime and nighttime.

Read more: mission status, Chang'E program

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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