China may launch its first lunar satellite in September this year, the official People's Daily said in its overseas edition Saturday, quoting head of the country's Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense.
"Preparatory work for the Chang'e I lunar orbiter is going according to schedule, and the orbiter may be launched in September this year," said Zhang Yunchuan, the commission's director.
The orbiter will provide 3D images of the moon's surface, analyze the distribution of 14 usable elements on the moon, study lunar microwaves and estimate the thickness of the moon's soil, according to Zhang.
The launch of the orbiter is the first phase of China's moon exploration program. The second phase will involves the launching of a rover to the moon at around 2012, Zhang said.
In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples, he said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2007)