China's Second Lunar Probe on Its Way

BEIJING—China's second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, successfully deployed into an Earth-moon transfer orbit Friday after blasting into space aboard a Long March 3C rocket. The orbiter is expected to take about 5 days to reach lunar orbit, less than half the time it took a predecessor, Chang'e-1, to make a similar trip 3 years ago.

The new probe will provide much higher resolution images than Chang'e-1 because it "will orbit 100 kilometers closer to the moon and carry a higher resolution camera," says Jiang Jingshan, deputy chief designer of the Chinese Lunar Orbiting Exploration program and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. "Chang'e-2 will perfect the Chang'e-1 mission," he says. Chang'e-2 will orbit 100 kilometers above the moon's surface and drop down to 15 kilometers on a mission to take detailed pictures of a candidate landing area for a follow-on craft, Chang'e-3, that is expected to be launched toward the end of 2014 or early 2015.