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Think tank of China's first lunar exploration program
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On December 12, President Hu Jintao declared that China had joined other countries having the capability for deep space exploration.

The capability for deep space exploration includes the potential to enter space, satellite development and application, space foundation and protection, manned spaceflight as well as space exploration, all of which can be attributed to many technical breakthroughs inside China within the past three years.

China's first lunar exploration program has been very successful, demonstrating outstanding wisdom on the part of the Chinese scientists.

A math genius designed the orbits of Chang'e I

Chang'e-I traveled over 380,000 kilometers before approaching the moon, consuming a total of 14 days.

Yang Weilian, a 66-year-old orbit designer born in Jiande, Zhejiang Province, plotted the route of Chang'e-I.

Yang Weilian was admitted to Peking University with a full score in math, his chosen major. The China Academy of Space Technology sent him abroad to study. His American peers praised him because he ingeniously settled many mathematical problems.

Orbit design is a new subject, involving three-dimensional problems and factoring in the gravitational forces of the earth and moon. The designers had to try and make forecasts using many complex calculations.

The designing group led by Yang, first assumed that the lunar probe would take flight in two stages. Then they finally worked out a suitable transfer orbit for Chang'e I after continuous corrections. 

The fuel saved by accurate orbital maneuvers will help prolong the working time of Chang'e-I by about one year, with two corrections being cancelled, said an expert with the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense of the People's Republic of China (COSTIND).

Female designer tackled technical difficulties of carrier rocket

Chang'e-I, China's first lunar probe, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket at 6:05 PM at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center of southwestern Sichuan Province on October 24, 2007, with a real error of only 0.4 second.

The Long March 3A has sent 15 satellites into space. It was originally designed to launch the "Dongfanghong 3" telecommunications satellites in the 1980's. The carrier has been dubbed the "gold medal rocket" because it has a history of zero defects.

Ms. Luo Qiaojun is a vice chief designer for the Long March 3A. She began to work at Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institution in 1989 and has been engaged in research on hydrogen-oxygen engines.

Luo has initiated a technical innovation to resolve the problem of helium leak inside whole engines. A national patent has been applied for the new technology, which is one of the five key technical improvements in the lunar probe program.

The home-make CCD camera can do the job of three

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) released the first picture of the moon captured by Chang'e-I on Nov. 26, captured by the CCD camera aboard the lunar probe. The Xi'an Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics, inside the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), designed the camera. Zhao Baochang, a specialist in optics, was the chief designer of the CCD camera.

Zhao Baochang has conducted research into technologies focused on photoelectric tests, space optics observation and interference spectrum imaging for 45 years. He is also a pioneer in high-speed photography technology.

Three cameras are needed to obtain three-dimensional images of the moon. Considering the limited launch capacity of rockets made in China, researchers have had to be very creative. They applied wide-angle lens and skillfully designed an optical-mechanical system. The CCD camera can do the job of three, with simplified structures and lighter weight, plus it cost significantly less, said Assistant Chief Engineer Sun Huixian.

"Many scientists simply burst into tears when they saw the high definition pictures taken by the home-made camera, the pictures are much better than expected," said Sun Laiyan, vice director of COSTIND and director of the CNSA.

A giant antenna to receive data sent back by Chang'e-I

The survey and command system has formed a bottleneck in China's moon exploration program.

A giant antenna, 50 meters in diameter, was designed in October 2002. After a check up it was accepted and began trial operations in October 2006, specifically to receive data sent back by Chang'e I.

Moreover, based on self-innovation, Chinese workers suggested that a measurement network should be built comparable to the size of China's territory, and designed like a huge telescope to improve measurement accuracy.

"Scientists will do data mining based on the large amount of statistics collected by the lunar probe. The statistics will be released throughout China's scientific community. Some statistics may be used in international exchanges according to common practice, with part of them designated for technical interchanges,"said Sun Jiadong, chief designer of the moon exploration program. 

( by Yang Xi, December 25, 2007)

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