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China publishes first moon picture

2007-11-26

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao unveils the moon image captured by China's lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 during an unveiling ceremony at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 26, 2007. China published the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-1 on Monday morning, marking the success of the country's first lunar probe project. (Xinhua Photo)

    BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- China published the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-1 on Monday morning, marking the success of the country's first lunar probe project.

    The framed black-and-white photo was unveiled by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The image showed a rough moon surface with scattered round craters both big and small.

    The area covered by the picture, about 460 kilometers in length and 280 km in width, was located within a 54 to 70 degrees south latitude and 57 to 83 degrees east longitude, according to BACC sources.

    The area pictured was part of the moon's highland and was mainly composed of plagioclase, a common rock-forming element. On the surface were craters of different sizes, shapes, structures and ages, the sources said.

    "The dark patch in the picture's upper right side shows the surface blanketed by basalt, a hard and dense volcanic rock," the sources said.

    The picture was pieced together by 19 images, each covering a width of 60 kilometers on the moon's surface. The far right of the picture was the first area to be captured by the CCD camera aboard Chang'e-1.

    All the image data was collected on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 and processed into a three-dimensional picture in several days after being transmitted back to Earth.

    "Chinese people's dream of flying to the moon for more than 1,000 years has started to materialize," said Wen in a passionate speech. He hailed China as one of the few world powers capable of conducting a deep-space probe.

    The premier said that the lunar probe was the third milestone in China's space exploration, following the success of man-made satellites and manned space flights.

    The success, he said, not only manifested China's rising national strength and technical innovation capability, but also elevated the country's international status and cemented national cohesion.

    "It showcases eloquently that the Chinese people have the will, the ambition and the capability to compose more shining new chapters while ascending the science and technology summit," he said.

    During the celebration work staff at a hall in the BACC where the picture was unveiled, played greetings and music decoded from the data transmitted back to Earth via the satellite.

    "I come with greetings from China," said a female voice that was programmed into the Chang'e-1 probe to salute the moon.

    The music broadcast included "The East is Red", which was also played in 1970 by the country's first man-made satellite, "Ode to the Motherland," a tribute to the country's power and prosperity, and some moon-themed songs, such as Chinese pop diva Faye Wong's rendition of a famous Song Dynasty (960-1127) poem.

    Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who, according to legend, flew to the moon, blasted off a Long March 3A carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m. on Oct. 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

    The 2,350-kg satellite carries eight probing facilities, including a stereo camera and interferometer, an imager and gamma/x-ray spectrometer, a laser altimeter, a microwave detector, a high-energy solar particle detector and a low-energy ion detector.

    It aims to fulfil four scientific objectives. They include a three-dimensional survey of the moon surface, analysis on the abundance and distribution of elements on the lunar surface, an investigation of the characteristics of lunar regolith and the powdery soil layer on the surface, and an exploration of the circumstance between the Earth and moon.

    The satellite traveled nearly two million kilometers in its 15-day flight to the moon and reached its final working orbit with a fixed altitude of 200 kilometers on Nov. 7.

    Chang'e-1 was designed to stay on the orbit for one year, but scientists estimated that precise maneuvers may have saved 200 kg of the fuel and prolonged its lifespan.

    The BACC will control the operation of the probe and all its facilities, in coordination with the ground application system, in the following period.

    "The satellite will keep sending back various probing data, which we will share with scientists all over the world according to the international conventions," said a BACC official.

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