China launches first moon mission

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CHINA – China launched ts first lunar probe early Monday, which, if all goes well, will make it only the third nation — after the United States and the Soviet Union — to soft-land on the moon.

The launch of the unmanned probe took place at 1:30 a.m. Monday (12:30 p.m. ET Sunday), state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chang’e-3 blasted off from a Long March 3B rocket in Sichuan province located in southwest China and is expected to land on the moon’s surface in mid-December.

The new space effort comes just over a decade after the country first sent an astronaut into space.

Unlike the soft-landing of the U.S. and the Soviet Union’s unmanned spacecraft, Chang’e-3 will be able to survey the landscape first and determine the safest spot.

Researchers say an impact crater named Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, is its likely destination. In 2010, China’s previous lunar mission captured images of the crater while scouting potential landing sites for the 2013 probe.

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