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China to publish whole lunar 3D image in January
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China's space experts have predicted that the country will publish the whole lunar 3D image in January next year.

On Monday, China published its first moon image sent back by its lunar probe Chang'e-1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon.

The picture was pieced together from 19 images, each covering a width of 60 kilometers of the moon's surface. The area covered by the picture, about 460 kilometers in length and 280 kilometers in width, is located within a 54 to 70 degrees south latitude and 57 to 83 degrees east longitude on the moon, according to sources with Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

Wu Ji, director of the Center of Space Science and Applied Research under CAS, the China Academy of Sciences, explained that the released image is a 2D picture, and researchers are working on the data sent back to formulate a 3D image, hoping to publish the picture as soon as possible.

The camera aboard China's lunar probe Chang'e-1 is a high performance CCD (Charge Coupled Device) stereo camera, which has three lenses to take photos of the lunar surface from three different angles to build up a 3D image.

Hao Xifan, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration Center of China's Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, said that the 3D image will possibly be published in January next year.

Chang'e-1 is expected to photograph the whole lunar surface in a month, as the moon's rotation period is one month.

After Chang'e-1 sends back the data, researchers have to spend months piecing together the data and complete the entire lunar surface image.

Jiang Jingshan, designer with the Chinese Lunar Orbiting Exploration program, said he was nervous when the camera first sent back a black image. But after a few seconds, clear images of the moon craters appeared, bringing much excitement to the space center.

Beijing Times reported that the Chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan appraised the first image as very good. He said the image was only the start of Chang'e-1's exploration of the moon, and other pieces of equipment aboard the probe were still under testing.

(CRI November 27, 2007)


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