Saturday, March 07, 2009

Chang'e Lunar Mission Ends, Kepler Launched

Earlier this week, the Chang'e 1 lunar reconnaissance mission came to an end when controllers crashed the spacecraft onto the lunar surface. Launched by the Chinese National Space Agency on October 24, 2007, the probe spent 16 months sending back high resolution surface images of the moon. The moon has been the focus of a number of recent Asian space probes -- in addition to Chang'e, Japan's SELENE and India's Chandraayan are both still in lunar orbit and operational.

Late yesterday, NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft. Eventually destined for an orbit trailing the Earth around the sun, Kepler's mission is to conduct a telescopic search for planets around other stars by measuring tiny brightness fluctuations in a large number of stars over a period of years.

The above photo shows the Delta 2 rocket (Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller) carrying the Kepler spacecraft just after liftoff from Cape Canaveral last night.

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