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Lunar Probe Satellite to Ride on Long March IIIA

China has decided to use a Long March IIIA carrier rocket to launch the satellite in its lunar probe project, said sources with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).

The Long March IIIA was chosen for this mission because it enjoys the highest success rate among the Long March series of launch vehicles, according to the CALT.

Cen Zheng, commander of the Long March IIIA program, said that some technological improvements must be made to this type of carrier rocket for a successful launch of the lunar probe satellite. Alterations are expected to be complete in two years.

Some of the rocket's modules and its main body have already been put into production.

China's three-phase lunar probe project is known as the Chang'e Program. Chang'e was a Goddess who flew to the moon in an ancient Chinese fairy tale.

The first phase of the program, with funding of 1.4 billion yuan (US$170 million), entails sending a satellite to orbit the moon by 2007.

It will be followed by the lunar landing of an unmanned vehicle by 2010 and collecting samples of lunar soil with an unmanned vehicle by 2020.

The satellite will obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyze the content of elements and materials and probe the depth of the lunar soil and the space environment between the earth and the moon.

(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2004)

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