China launches its 1st moon orbiter

first_imgSPACE: Experts say nation hopes for military and scientific benefits. By Audra Ang THE ASSOCIATED PRESS BEIJING – Embarking on an ambitious 10-year moon exploration program, China launched its first lunar probe Wednesday – a leap forward in the Asian space race that gave a boost to national pride, and the promise of scientific and military payoffs. The lunar mission adds depth to a Chinese space program that has sent astronauts into orbit around the Earth twice. President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders sent congratulations, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Though national pride is one benefit of the space program, China is also looking for scientific and military benefits. Wednesday’s launch marks the first step of a three-stage moon mission. In about 2012 there will be a moon landing with a moon rover. In the third phase, about five years later, another rover will land on the moon and be returned to Earth with lunar soil and stone samples. Earlier this month, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said that he thought China will get to the moon before the United States can meet a 2020 deadline for a return visit. “It is a prestige issue,” said Michael Auslin, resident scholar in Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “China has had a more extensive space program than Japan, they’ve launched astronauts into space, so they clearly don’t want to be seen as giving up superiority to Japan.” The launch shows China is able to build and use the best technology, which has domestic, economic and military implications, he said. “They clearly see space as a new area of potential competition … this is moving in new directions, away from sea and air, and space launches are part of that.” Soon after Wednesday’s launch, Xinhua quoted an unidentified spokesman of the military-run space program as saying China was not interested in a space race. However, Vincent Sabathier, director of space initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China’s probe poses a military concern. “You cannot make the distinction between civil space and military space,” he said, adding that civil space involves projects done in the open. “The more you show the capability in civil space, the more you tell the potential adversaries you have the same thing on the military side. That you are mighty.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Just a week ago, Japan put a probe into orbit around the moon, and India has plans to send its own probe into space in April. The Long March 3A rocket left a trail of smoke Wednesday as it soared into cloudy skies from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in theprovince of Sichuan. Twenty-four minutes later, the Chang’e 1 satellite – named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon – separated from the rocket on a trajectory to reach lunar orbit in 13 days. “The launch of China’s first moon probe satellite is successful!” Xu Fuxiang, a professor from the China Institute of Space Technology, declared on television. “We have passed through the most difficult time,” he said after the rocket and satellite separated. “It should be heading smoothly toward the moon.” last_img read more