10/01/2010, 00.00
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Xichang, second lunar probe set for launch

The Chang'e-2 will be launched tonight, coinciding with celebrations for the founding of the People's Republic of China. The probe will capture photos and data for a possible landing of a probe in 2013. Rainy weather is expected at the the space station, but this should not affect launch program.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Last minute preparations are being put in place at the space centre in Xichang (Sichuan) for the launch of the second lunar probe. Experts confirm that even if rains are expected, the launch will go ahead as scheduled.

This evening, a long range 3C rocket will carry the Chang'e-2 probe into space, releasing it into lunar orbit, at a distance of 15, for six months. The launch coincides with the celebration of the founding of the People's Republic of China, which today celebrates its 61 years.

Thousands of people have been arriving at Xichang since early morning to see the launch first hand. Tickets are being sold (at 800 yuan, nearly 80 euro) for the best seats from which to watch the rocket launch.

The lunar probe will carry out various tests and take multiple photos in preparation for the launch of Chang'e-3, which will hopefully arrive on the moon by 2013. The Chang'e program for the conquest of the moon - the name of a hero of Chinese mythology who flew to the moon - was launched in 2007 with the Chang'e-1, which remained 16 months in lunar orbit.

By 2017, Beijing hopes to bring samples of moon rocks to Earth, in 2020, it hopes to send a man to the moon.

The Chinese space program was made public in 2003, with the spacewalk of Yang Liwei, who became a national hero.


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