China's long-expected lunar probe program broke the ground Thursday, with its scientific targets, project targets and the development schedule laid out, said China's Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense.
The project leading team held the first meeting to announce the launch of the project, and outlined the project's schedule.
The satellite program, part of the country's ambitious three-stage lunar project, would be followed by the landing of an unmanned vehicle on the Moon in the second stage by 2010, and collecting samples of lunar soil with an unmanned vehicle by 2020.
Sun Laiyan, deputy director of the China National Space Administration, said the satellite would obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyze the content of useful elements and materials, and prove the depth of the lunar soil and the space environment between the Earth and the Moon.
Sun described the satellite project as an important step toward China's exploration of deeper space, and the Moon would provide a good platform from which to explore.
The program is also named the Chang'e Program, referring to a goddess who flew to the Moon in an ancient Chinese fairytale.
(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2004)