By K J M Varma
Beijing: China, which successfully launched its first ever mission to land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon, has expressed interest in space cooperation with India which has sent its first interplanetary mission to Mars.
The probe Chang'e-3 was launched into orbit last night aboard an enhanced 56.4 meter high Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre.
The launch came a day after India's Mars orbiter Mangalyaan left the Earth for a 300-day journey to the Red Planet.
Chinese space scientists are looking forward to cooperation with other countries, including the country's close neighbour India, state-run Xinhua news agency said in a report on the successful launch of China's lunar probe.
Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar programme, told media earlier that China's space exploration does not aim at competition.
"We are open in our lunar programme, and cooperation from other countries is welcome. We hope to explore and use space for more resources to promote human development," the Xinhua report quoted him as saying.
The Chang'e-3 lunar probe is expected to land on the moon in mid-December to become China's first spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
The probe's carrier, an enhanced Long March-3B rocket, put the probe in the designated orbit in a text book launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.
The probe, which is carrying a robotic rover to explore the moon besides a telescope, entered the earth-moon transfer orbit as scheduled, with a perigee of 200 kilometers and apogee of 380,000 kms, officials said.
"The probe has already entered the designated orbit," said Zhang Zhenzhong, director of the launch center in Xichang.
"I now announce the launch was successful," he said amid cheers from the staff.
"We will strive for our space dream as part of the hinese dream of national rejuvenation," he said.
The probe's soft-landing is the most difficult task during the mission, said Wu Weiren, the lunar programme's chief designer.
"This will be a breakthrough for China to realize zero-distance observation and survey on the moon."