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China's 2nd lunar probe Chang'e-2 blasts off


XICHANG, Sichuan, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- China launched its second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e-2 on Friday, inaugurating the second phase of a three-step moon mission, which will culminate in a soft-landing on the moon.

At 6:59:57 p.m., the satellite blasted off on a Long March 3C carrier rocket from No. 2 launch tower at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

"Chang'e-2 lays foundation for the soft-landing on the moon and further exploration of outer space," said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project.

Chang'e-2 entered the orbit with a perigee of 200 kilometers and apogee of 380,000 kilometers as scheduled. There it separated from the carrier rocket.

It was the first time that a Chinese lunar probe directly entered the earth-moon transfer orbit without orbiting the earth first.

"It is a major breakthrough of the rocket design, as it saves energy used by the satellite and speeds up the journey to the lunar orbit," said Pang Zhihao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology.

The lunar satellite is expected to take about 112 hours, or almost five days, to arrive at its lunar orbit, faster than the 12 days taken by the Chang'e-1 three years ago.

"It travels faster and closer to the moon, and it will capture clear pictures," Wu said.

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