hackingbear writes: Chinese moon probe Chang'e-2 made a flyby of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16:30:09 Beijing Time (08:30"09 GMT), the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced today. The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god, making China the fourth country after the US, the EU and Japan to be able to examine an asteroid by spacecraft. Chang'e-2 came as close as 3.2 km from Toutatis, which is about 7 million km away from the Earth, and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73 km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement. Chang'e-2, originally designated as the backup of Chang'e-1, left its lunar orbit for an extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after finishing its lunar objectives, and then again began its mission to Toutatis this year. "The success of the extended missions also embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight," said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar probe program.
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