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China's first lunar probe to reach moon orbit Nov. 5 - agency

RIA Novosti

04/11/2007 17:28 BEIJING, November 5 (RIA Novosti) - China's first lunar probe, launched from the Xichang Launch Center in the country's southwest on October 24, will reach the moon's orbit Monday morning, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

"Chang'e-1, following the instructions of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), will carry out its first braking at perilune at about 11:00 a.m. [3:00 a.m. GMT] Monday to slow down, so that it can be captured by the lunar gravity and become a circumlunar satellite," Xinhua quoted the BACC chief engineer as saying.

The lunar probe project is focused on analyzing the chemical and mineral structure of the lunar surface, and the first images of the Moon will be beamed back to China in the second half of November.

The launch is considered to be the first step in China's three-stage Moon exploration campaign, with the second step being the delivery of a Moon rover, and the third that of a recovery research vehicle to collect soil samples.

The ultimate aim of the Chinese project is to put a man on the Moon by 2020.

The launch of Chang'e is widely seen as part of an Asian space race with Japan and India. Earlier in October, a Japanese lunar probe entered lunar orbit, and India has plans for an unmanned mission to the Moon next April.

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