By Alan Boyle
China's official news agency is reporting that the country's Chang'e 2 deep-space probe made an amazing flyby of the asteroid Toutatis this week, snapping a series of pictures as it passed by at a distance of just 2 miles. The achievement signals China's entry into yet another exclusive space club.
Only four of the world's space efforts have managed close encounters with asteroids: NASA (with NEAR Shoemaker and Dawn, for example), the European Space Agency (with Rosetta), Japan (with Hayabusa) — and now China with Toutatis.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted officials at the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, or SASTIND, as saying that Chang'e 2 buzzed past the 3-mile-long (5-kilometer-long) asteroid at a relative speed of 24,000 mph (10.73 kilometers per second).
I really didn't need to see anyone's toutatis.