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CHINESE SPACE PROBE MAKES SOFT MOON LANDING, 1ST SINCE 1976

December 14, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

This photograph taken off the screen at the Beijing Space Centre shows the moon surface transmitted to earth by Chang'e-3 carrying China's first lunar rover on December 14, 2013 (AFP)



China succeeded on Saturday in the world's first soft landing of a lunar probe on the moon in nearly 40 years, official media said.

China became the third country to achieve a soft landing on the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. The last mission was in 1976 by the Soviet Union's Luna-24.

The unmanned Chang'e-3 spacecraft is carrying a six-wheeled rover called Yutu -- Jade Rabbit -- which is expected to drive around the lunar surface for at least three months to study the moon's geological structure and collect data.

China has said the mission includes looking for natural resources, with some experts pointing out that one of its goals is to mine helium-3, a possible future fuel for nuclear fusion reactors.

It has also said a telescope will be set up for the first time in history to study the Earth's plasmasphere.

Chang'e-3 touched down on an unstudied lava plain known as Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, according to the Chinese media.

China achieved its first lunar landing after putting the probe into space by a Long March-3B rocket that blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Dec. 2.

China has said space exploration is part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, a slogan promoted by President Xi Jinping.

Since sending an astronaut into space for the first time in 2003, China has quickly built up a military-backed space program. It has plans to realize a manned lunar mission by around 2020 and set up a manned space station on the moon after 2030. - AFP



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