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Yong-Chun ZhengNovember 12, 2010

First pictures from Chang'E 2 released

The following was sent to the Lunar Listserv by Yong-Chun Zheng, an associate professor at the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences. I thought it provided useful information and a perspective from within China on the Chang'E 2 mission, so I asked his permission to repost it here, and he kindly agreed, mentioning also his pride in being a member of, and contributor to, The Planetary Society.

I've accompanied his text with the highest-resolution versions of the images that I can find, most of them taken from here, where there are more pictures beyond what I've posted below. However, none of the versions of the images that I have found to be available online are anything close to their full stated resolution. --ESL

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced the success of Chang'E-2 lunar mission on Monday. Premier Wen attended the unveiling ceremony at the China National Space Administration. Before unveiling the picture, Wen visited representatives of scientists and engineers of who participated in the Chang'E-2 lunar mission.

Chang'E 2 pictures unveiled
Chang'E 2 pictures unveiled
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao unveils pictures of the Moon's Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows. This picture was photographed by the Chang'E-2 lunar orbiter, marking the success of China's Chang'E-2 lunar probe mission.

The success of Chang'E-2 marks another great achievement after the successful l Chang'E-1 mission. The Chinese people will unswervingly develop space technologies for lunar and planetary exploration and the peaceful use of outer space.

Sinus Iridum would like to be one candidate for the soft landing site for future Chang'E-3. Chang'E-3, which is planned to be launched in 2013, will be developed including a lunar module and a lunar rover.

The image of Sinus Iridum was photographed by a charge-coupled device (CCD) stereo camera on the Chang'E-2 lunar probe from a height of 18.7 km over the lunar surface on Oct. 28, 2010.

Chang'E 2 image of Sinus Iridum
Chang'E 2 image of Sinus Iridum
Part of Sinus Iridum, photographed by Chang'E-2 on Oct. 28, 2010. The image is centered at 31.3°W, 43.4°N. The spatial resolution of the image is 1.3 m/pixel, much higher that 120 m of Chang'E-1. The largest crater in the picture is 2.0 km in diameter. (Note: this version of the image has much lower resolution than 1.3 meters per pixel.)

The frame of the picture covered a region of 8 km wide from east to west and 15.9 km long from south to north, centered at 31.05°W and 43.07°N of the Moon.

Chang'E-2 will circle the Moon for six months to explore the lunar surface. The final fortune of Chang'E-2 is still under discussion, without decision. After the achievement of the scientific goals, Chang'E-2 will be planned to complete another task, possibly crashing the lunar surface like as Chang'E-1, or exploring one asteroid body, or returning back to the Earth.

Chang'E-2 had been designed and produced as a backup satellite of Chang'E-1 lunar probe. After the success of Chang'E-1, the backup satellite has completed technical modification for the new mission goals. Chang'E-2 will be developed as technical test satellite for the second stage of China's Lunar Exploration Program, and will be launched in October 2010. The time, from launch to be captured by the Moon, was shortened from Chang'E-1's 12 days to Chang'E-2's 5 days. The orbit altitude was lowered down from Chang'E-1's 200 km to Chang'E-2's 100 km. The spatial resolution of CCD stereo camera will be improved from Chang'E-1's 120 m to Chang'E-2's 10 m. The frequency of laser pulse of laser altimeter will be improved from Chang'E-1's 1 Hz to Chang'E-2's 5 Hz. The mission goals of Chang'E-2 will be focused into the high resolution image for the future landing site of Chang'E-3 lunar lander and rover. The key technology about soft landing on the Moon will be tested in the Chang'E-2 mission. The success of Chang'E-2 will provide important technical basis for the successful implementation of China's future lunar exploration.

The Chang'E probes are named after Chang'E, a legendary Chinese moon goddess.

Daniell crater from Chang'E 2
Daniell crater from Chang'E 2
Crater Daniell is located in the southern half of Lacus Somniorum, at 31.6E, 35.18N. The diameter of the crater is 29 kilometers. This image was taken by Chang'E-2 on October 23, 2010 from the altitude of 100 kilometers above of the lunar surface. It is interesting that the crack in the floor of the crater is very similar to the ancient Chinese word, Moon.
Sinus Iridum in perspective


Sinus Iridum in perspective
Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of Sinus Iridum. The image was taken at 19 km altitude from the lunar surface. The spatial resolution of the original image is 1.3 m/pixel. The largest crater is about 2 km in diameter and 450 m in depth.
Laplace A from Chang'E 2


Laplace A from Chang'E 2
Three dimension image (DEM) of crater Laplace A on the Moon. The image data was taken by Chang'E-2 lunar probe on Oct 28, 2010.

Additional information:

The Chang'E-1 orbiter is the first lunar probe of China. The lunar orbiting project is the first step of the "orbiting"," landing" and "returning" strategy of lunar exploration of China. The Chang'E-1 was successfully launched on Oct. 24th, 2007 at Xichang Satellite Launch Center and was guided to crash the Moon on Mar. 1st, 2009. The total mission length is 495 days. The total amount of raw data is about 1.37TB, and 4TB of scientific data have been produced. By the analysis and application of these data, a series of science results have been achieved, especially "the global image of the Moon by the first lunar mission of China", the Chang'E-1 has made out its four scientific objectives, and provides foundations for the promotion of the lunar sciences and planetology in China and succeeding lunar exploration missions.

Many thanks for your continuous attention to Chang'E-2.

Read more: pretty pictures, mission status, the Moon, Chang'E program

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Yongchun Zheng
Yong-Chun Zheng

Scientist for National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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