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Chinese space probe Chang’e 2 takes close up images of Asteroid 4179 Toutatis

Beijing, Dec 16 ():  By moving deep in the space, Chinese space probe Chang’e-2 has successfully done a manoeuvre in which it passed close to the asteroid Toutatis, which is about seven million kilometres away from the Earth.

During its voyage, close to the asteroid Toutatis, Chang’e-2, had taken several images of the asteroid and has transmitted them back to Earth. State-run Xinhua news agency said Chang’e-2 came as close as 3.2 km from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73 km per second.

Chang’e 2 was launched by China in 2010 at a project cost of $132 million and the probe was originally designed to orbit the moon. Since its blast-off, Chang’e-2 has captured full coverage map of the moon besides becoming the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit.

After completing its mission near Moon, Chang’e-2 had gone past the moon and flew by the asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16.30 Beijing Time. The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) claimed this is the first time a space ship flew by the asteroid, named after a Celtic God.

Toutatis is 1.5 miles wide and 2.7 miles long; astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid because it makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.

This week asteroid Toutatis passed by Earth at a minimum distance of 4.3 million miles (7 million kilometers), which gave the scientists a great opportunity to learn more about the peanut-shaped space mountain at a relatively close but totally safe distance from the Earth.

SASTIND said the space probe, Chang’e-2 will continue its journey into deep space, that is estimated to reach a distance as far away as 10,000,000 km away from Earth sometime in January 2013.