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China Space Science

Chinese Moon Probe Flies By Asteroid Toutatis 59

hackingbear writes "Chinese moon probe Chang'e-2 made a flyby of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16:30:09 Beijing Time (08:30:09 GMT), the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced today. The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god, making China the fourth country after the U.S., the EU and Japan to be able to examine an asteroid by spacecraft. Chang'e-2 came as close as 3.2 km from Toutatis, which is about 7 million km away from the Earth, and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73 km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement. Chang'e-2, originally designated as the backup of Chang'e-1, left its lunar orbit for an extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after finishing its lunar objectives, and then again began its mission to Toutatis this year. 'The success of the extended missions also embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,' said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar probe program."
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Chinese Moon Probe Flies By Asteroid Toutatis

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  • The actual picture (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @08:43AM (#42300613)
  • and so... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It will give it the little gravitational push it needs to crash on Earth in 2145 or so. Thank you China.

    • It will give it the little gravitational push it needs to crash on Earth in 2145 or so. Thank you China.

      That was the plan all along. You didn't know that? :>

  • Cue the "the Chinese are way ahead of NASA" posts.

    • Cue the "the Chinese are way ahead of NASA" posts.

      Does my "their control center is a direct knock-off of NASA's" post count? Heh.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It used to be Soviet Russia. Chang'e we can believe in.

      Actually Chang'e has been "way ahead of NASA" for an eternity. She lives on the moon with a moonshining jade rabbit FFS.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Cue the "the Chinese are way ahead of NASA" posts.

      No, they're not. The problem is that American progress is slower than American decline, which makes how far ahead NASA is mostly irrelevant.

      And, unfortunately, we don't have a Hari Seldon.

      • by Abreu ( 173023 )

        If we had a Hari Seldon, would anyone listen to him?

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        NASA is not the only "space agency" in the U.S. federal government, and it isn't even the largest (which would arguably be the National Reconnaissance Office), and the U.S. Air Force also has a separate "Air Force Space Command" which does more than its share of activity in space including the infamous X-37 [] that appears to be using some of the technology developed for the Space Shuttle.

        If you are critical of NASA, that criticism is justified but it is wrong to compare NASA to what the Chinese are doing as N

        • The real exciting stuff in America is happening with private companies, who are essentially telling the U.S. government to get lost and not get in their way.

          This seems like a misreading to me - SpaceX is perfectly happy to do business with the US government, and it's not like they're ignoring federal regulations to do their work. A more accurate statement would be that the US government has told private companies "go ahead, we'll stay out of the way."

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            SpaceX is not where the action is happening. If you think the only private spaceflight is SpaceX, you simply don't know what is going on.

            Check out Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Scaled Composites, Bigelow Aerospace, Blur Origin, and XCor (just to name a few... I know I'm missing a bunch). Even with SpaceX their flight manifest [] has a majority of the flights booked for commercial projects that have nothing to do with the federal government.

            I guess the saying goes that if it is raining money, you

            • Quite literally the owners of these private enterprises are telling the government to get out of their way and not mess with their businesses.

              True, but let's at least use honest labeling: they're telling one branch of the federal government, specifically the executive branch. With a government as large and bureaucratic as ours it's inevitable that individual vested interests occasionally come to the fore, but it's unfair to slander the entire thing as if it's one monolithic entity (among other problems, ma

              • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                Some people at NASA aren't at fault. There is a huge divide going on in NASA right now between those who want to encourage private commercial spaceflight and those who don't. Lori Garver received a cold shoulder when she first visited NASA centers while she was on a "fact finding tour" for the Obama administration.... then she became their boss. I've also heard in those same congressional hearings some very negative things about private spaceflight efforts coming from NASA center chiefs and other promine

          • SpaceX is perfectly happy to do business with the US government, and it's not like they're ignoring federal regulations to do their work. A more accurate statement would be that the US government has told private companies "go ahead, we'll stay out of the way."

            You're interrupting a good ideological rant with facts. Stop that.

      • governmetn has has given go-ahead to manned asteroid exploration and two-asteroid mission, way beyond what the Chinese will be capable of in 12 years

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday December 15, 2012 @09:42AM (#42300813)

    Le ciel va nous tomber sur la tête!

    • You know, if that did hit Earth it would be a case of the sky falling.

  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @09:48AM (#42300837)

    [whistles] Wow, how much fuel did they put in that thing? It spent around 8 months in lunar orbit, which usually eats up a bit of fuel right there, even without the several orbital changes they did while there. And then it leaves lunar orbit on its way to the Earth-Sun L2 point? I realize that once you get out of LEO the amount of fuel required to get anywhere (at least slowly) goes down exponentially but they must have packed quite a bit of fuel into that thing (I believe it is roughly the size of a walk in closet)

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @10:11AM (#42300931)

      With Weak Stability Boundary theory trajectories you can basically get from a lunar transfer orbit (or either ES or EM L1/2) to anywhere else around without spending any fuel, if you are willing to wait long enough. This pdf presentation [] should give you the idea.

      Now, in practice you can't do it with no fuel, but if you are willing to be patient, you can do amazing things with a piddling expenditure of delta-V.

  • Radar did OK (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @10:00AM (#42300891)

    If you compare this image with the Goldstone image of Toutatis by Earth-based radar - see []Figure 1 [] in Hudson et al - you can see that the Earth radar does OK, but actually going there is better. Toutatis's rotation period is 176 hours, so we won't get to see the other side in the flyby.

    Note that there are a few craters, but not many (asteroid Itokawa has no craters in Hayabusa images), so as usual something is resurfacing the surface.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not that I'm a big fan of China, but after the DPRK craziness it makes me feel pretty good about them in comparison. Hooray for countries that aren't totally insane. It's nice to see them doing science with their rocketry. A hearty round of applause for China on this, and that' s a nice picture that the other poster linked too.

  • by surd1618 ( 1878068 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @05:11PM (#42303407) Journal
    If you follow the link and go three pictures forward (avoiding the ads that appear in the bottom-right corner), then you can see a diagram of the Chang'e 2's flight path, including the part where it orbits the L2 Langrangian []. I think in an American publication they'd not want to include that diagram because they'd get too many letters asking 'what the ****' it was.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.