In the latest stage of its ambitious space program, China has launched its second Moon probe, this one intended to test technologies that will allow it to land an unmanned mission on the Moon in 2013. The Chang’e 2 probe sits atop a Long March 3C rocket that took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan and is expected to reach lunar orbit in five days. One of its tasks will be to photograph and map the Moon’s surface for possible landing sites for a robotic rover.
China is one of an elite group of three that has put a man in space. It has launched three manned space flights since the first in 2003. Though its space program got off to a slow start and is running behind its original timetable, it is making up for lost time. Putting a Chinese on the Moon is a goal for sometime between 2025 and 2030. Like the U.S. and the old Soviet Union before it, China sees its space program as both fostering the development of advanced technologies for military and civilian use, and as a statement of its emergence as a world power.