Chang’e-2 Space Probe Snaps Close-Ups Of Asteroid Toutatis
A Chinese space probe has successfully taken close-up images of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis.
AsianScientist (Dec. 17, 2012) – The Chinese space probe Chang’e-2 has successfully taken close-up images of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis, about seven million kilometers away from the Earth.
The unmanned spaceraft made a flyby of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16:30:09 Beijing Time, according to a statement by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) on Saturday.
The asteroid Toutatis is named after a Celtic god worshiped in ancient Gaul and Britain.
It is the first time that an unmanned spacecraft has viewed the asteroid at close range. China is also the fourth country after the U.S., the EU, and Japan to examine an asteroid by spacecraft.
Chang’e-2 took pictures at a distance of 3.2 kilometers from the asteroid and at a relative velocity of 10.73 km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.
Originally designated as the backup of Chang’e-1, Chang’e-2 was launched in 2010 into lunar orbit. While the first retrieved lunar data and carried out an initial mapping of the surface, the second created a full high-resolution map of the moon.
Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, following which it began its mission to Toutatis this year.
“The success of the extended missions also embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,” Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program, told Xinhua news agency.
According to Xinhua, sources say that Chang’e-2 will continue its mission into deep space, reaching a distance of more than 10 million km away from Earth in January next year.
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