China Space Probe Encounters Asteroid Toutatis
A number of news services in China are reporting that Chang’e-2 has successfully flown by asteroid Toutatis. The flyby took place on Dec. 13 and was announced by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).
The Chinese probe closed in on the large space rock by a mere 2 miles.
Chang’e-2 has been in space travel mode since its launch on Oct. 1, 2010. It first orbited the moon, completing a survey of the lunar landscape. The craft was then maneuvered to the Earth–Sun L2 Lagrangian point. Then, in mid-April of this year, Chang’e-2 left that L2 position and trekked to a rendezvous with asteroid 4179 Toutatis.
The up-close imagery should go far in understanding Toutatis – a near Earth object that whisked by the Earth December 12th – zipping by our planet within 0.0463 AU of Earth (18 lunar distances).
By Leonard David