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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
China plans Moon probe
The moon
The US made the first manned moon landing in 1969
China is planning to send an unmanned probe to the Moon.

The official Xinhua news agency said the probe would be launched by a Chinese-made Long March rocket.

Chinese National Space Administration (CSNA) chief Luan Enjie unveiled the plan, but gave no details of timetable or costs.

China regularly launches satellites, and is hoping to send manned flights into space by the end of the decade.

Mr Luan said a lunar probe would allow 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".

Uneven record

The announcement follows a deal signed earlier this year with the European Space Agency (Esa) to place instruments aboard two Chinese satellites.

The Chinese project, Double Star, will explore the Earth's magnetosphere - the magnetic "bubble" which surrounds the planet.

A Long March rocket blasts off in late 1999
China has channelled huge resources into its space programme
It is the first time Europe has decided to conduct experiments on board Chinese satellites.

They are due to go into orbit aboard Long March 2C rockets in December 2002 and March 2003.

China's space industry is recovering from a string of setbacks in the mid-nineties. A Long March 2E rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite exploded after blast-off in January 1995, killing a family of six.

Another rocket blew up after take-off in early 1996 and, later in the year, a Long March rocket placed a $120m Chinese satellite in the wrong orbit, leaving it to drift hopelessly in space.

See also:

09 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Europe signs space deal with China
11 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Satellite separation seen from space
09 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Cluster satellites launch
16 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Cluster satellites go into orbit
16 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Blast off for space weather mission
01 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
European mission open to offers
10 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Inflatable shields look good
16 Jul 99 | The moon landing
Walking on the moon
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