CHANG’E 2 ( /tʃæŋˈʌ/; simplified Chinese: 嫦娥二号; traditional Chinese: 嫦娥二號; pinyin: Cháng’é èr hào) is a Chinese unmanned lunar probe that was launched on 1 October 2010. It was a follow-up to the Chang’e 1 lunar probe, which was launched in 2007. Chang’e 2 was part of the first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, and conducted research from a 100-km-high lunar orbit in preparation for the December 2013 soft landing by the Chang’e 3 lander and rover. Chang’e 2 was similar in design to Chang’e 1, although it featured some technical improvements, including a more advanced onboard camera. Like its predecessor, the probe was named after Chang’e, an ancient Chinese moon goddess.
After completing its primary objective, the probe left lunar orbit for the Earth–Sun L2 Lagrangian point, to test the Chinese tracking and control network, making the China National Space Administration the third space agency after NASA and ESA to have visited this point. It entered orbit around L2 on 25 August 2011, and began transmitting data from its new position in September 2011. In April 2012, Chang’e 2 departed L2 to begin an extended mission to the asteroid 4179 Toutatis, which it successfully flew by in December 2012. This success made China’s CNSA the fourth space agency to directly explore asteroids, after NASA, ESA and JAXA. As of 2014, Chang’e 2 has travelled over 100 million km from Earth, and is conducting a long-term mission to verify China’s deep-space tracking and control systems.
Artwork by Liis Roden
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