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Chinese spacecraft flies past asteroid Toutatis
Posted: Sun, Dec 16, 2012, 10:54 AM ET (1554 GMT)
Chang'e-2 images of Toutatis during December 2012 flyby A Chinese spacecraft originally launched to orbit the Moon flew past and successfully returned images of the near Earth asteroid Toutatis this week. Chang'e-2 passed by Toutatis on December 13, with its closest approach at a distance of only 3.2 kilometers at 3:30 am EST (0830 GMT, 4:30 pm Beijing time) that day. The spacecraft returned several images of the asteroid from the flyby. China launched Chang'e-2 in October 2010 as a lunar orbiter, and it studied the Moon from orbit until June 2011, when it departed orbit to travel to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, making it the first Chinese spacecraft to travel beyond the vicinity of the Moon. The spacecraft left L2 earlier this year to make a flyby of Toutatis.
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