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China launches moon rover mission

China has launched its first mission to land a rover on the moon that will transmit images and survey the moon's surface.

The spacecraft is expected to land in mid-December.

The official Xinhua News Agency said a Long March-3B rocket carrying the Chang'e 3 lander blasted off today as scheduled at 1.30am local time from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in south-west China.

If the mission goes as planned, the Chang'e 3 will become China's first spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.

The moon rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances.

China's military-backed space programme is a source of enormous national pride and has powered ahead in a series of well-funded, methodically timed steps.

AP

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