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China planning lunar orbiter launch this month
Posted: Tue, Oct 16, 2007, 8:38 PM ET (0038 GMT)
Chinese officials confirmed Tuesday that the country will launch its first lunar mission, a robotic orbiter, later this month. The official news agency Xinhua reported that Zhang Qingwei, minister in charge of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, said that the Chang'e-1 orbiter would be launched by the end of the month, citing "consideration of weather and celestial conditions". Zhang did not give a specific launch date, but a Shanghai newspaper reported that the launch would occur between October 22 and 25. Chang'e-1, an orbiter with a suite of cameras and other instruments, is the long-awaited first Chinese mission to the Moon. Chinese officials have previously stated the plan to follow up this mission with a robotic lander and, later, a sample return mission. There have been reports in the Western media that China plans to mount a human mission to the Moon before 2020, although evidence in support of such planning is mixed at best
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