China to select new site for moon rocket launch


Beijing : China is considering launching rockets from a new site for the next phase of the country’s lunar exploration programme because of transportation problems, the programme’s top scientist has said.

Support TwoCircles

China had launched its second unmanned lunar probe, Chang’e-2, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province Oct 1.

Now, authorities are considering a launch from the Hainan Island province, the Shanghai Daily reported Monday citing the Beijing Times.

Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the lunar exploration programme, said the site is being considered because the rockets required for future missions will be too large to be transported on land.

“No rocket more than 3.5 meters in diameter can be transported by trains or other vehicles. They can only be carried by ships,” he said.

Ouyang said China is developing a new model of rocket capable of landing heavy facilities on the moon.

China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1 launched in October 2007, ended its mission by crashing into the moon after orbiting for 16 months. It acquired a three-dimensional map of the moon’s surface.

China has a three-stage lunar exploration programme – with both Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 part of the second stage leading to an unmanned moon landing. The Chang’e-3 will land on the lunar surface and release a moon rover around 2013.

The third stage aims to bring a moon rock sample back to Earth in 2017.