Thursday, October 07, 2010
That was quick - Chang'e entered lunar orbit some 20 hours ago and its orbit is now beginning to be fine tuned after which the official mission will begin. Space.com has an article here and so does the German Raumfahrer, from which I gleaned some information just for fun.
The braking operation began at 11:06 am in China, and took some 33 minutes. With that Chang'e entered an elliptical orbit with an orbital period of 12 hours.
There are more maneuvers planned for the coming days, which will bring the moon orbiter into a closer orbit around the Moon. Only after that can the equipment on board make high-quality measurements. The first aim is a circular orbit some 100 km above the lunar surface, which is twice as close to the surface as the first mission, Chang'e 1.
Later on in the mission it will sink down to an orbit of just 15 km above the surface. With that China hopes for images with a resolution of just a few metres (per pixel) which will be able to be used for its coming lunar missions.