Source AP ©

Japan delays lunar mission

The space agency of Japan announced that it decided to delay the launch of its lunar space probe for a few days. The orbiter is to be launched later this week due to anticipated bad weather, an official said Tuesday.

The largest lunar mission since the U.S. Apollo program will be launched on Friday because of a forecast for lightning on Thursday when it was supposed to take place, according to Asaka Hagiwara, a spokeswoman for JAXA, as the agency is called.

The probe will be launched on Tanegashima, the remote island where JAXA's space center is located.

The Selenological and Engineering Explorer - or SELENE - probe was to have been launched aboard one of the space program's mainstay H-2A rockets on Aug. 17, but was delayed because several condensers were improperly installed on the two smaller satellites that accompany the main orbiter.

The 32-billion yen (US$272 million; EUR 200.13 million) SELENE is already four years behind schedule. Japan launched a moon probe in 1990, but that was a flyby mission, unlike SELENE, which is intended to orbit the moon.

The SELENE project is the largest lunar mission since the U.S. Apollo program in terms of overall scope and ambition, outpacing the former Soviet Union's Luna program and NASA's Clementine and Lunar Prospector projects, according to JAXA.

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