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China goes lunar

Satellite arrives, all looking good

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Brief China's lunar probe has arrived in orbit around the moon after a twelve day journey. It slotted into place yesterday, after receiving orders to slow down some 200km from its destination. It will spend the next year scanning the surface and reporting back, with images and data, to mission control.

The satellite, dubbed Chang'e I, has joined a similar orbiter sent up by the Japanese space agency JAXA, which arrived just weeks ago. India is planning a mission to the moon next year.

But despite the current frenzy of interest in all things lunar, China was keen to downplay talk of a new space race. According to reports Long Jiang, deputy commander of spacecraft systems of China's lunar exploration programme, emphasised China's wish to work with the international community.

"We are willing to co-operate with the rest of the world to the benefit of humankind," the BBC quotes Long as saying. "But as to what kind of co-operation, it depends on specific circumstances."

Meanwhile Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration told state television: "We are all very excited. The orbiter has completed all its moves perfectly... This marks the first step in exploring deeper space." ®

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