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China plans to send probe to the moon


BEIJING (AP) _ China plans to send a probe to the moon, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.

The probe will be launched on a Chinese-made Long March rocket, Xinhua said, quoting a report by Chinese National Space Administration chief Luan Enjie at a recent conference. It did not say whether firm plans had been drawn up or give other details.

China's space program regularly launches satellites, and has set a goal of a manned launch by the end of this decade. However, few details are available of new developments in the military-linked program.

Lunar exploration allows China to ``struggle for a more important place in the world space science field and raise our deep space exploration technology to a higher standard,'' Xinhua quoted Luan saying.

Luan said the lunar probe program was complemented by a recent agreement with the European Space Agency to jointly study the magnetosphere _ the magnetic field that surrounds Earth.

The ``Double Star'' program calls for China to build, launch and operate a pair of satellites carrying European and Chinese experiments, according to Xinhua.

China's communist government has poured huge resources into making the nation a force in space.

In addition to its scientific benefits, lunar exploration has an ``immeasurable usefulness to raising national prestige and inspiring the nationalistic spirit,'' Xinhua said.
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