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Chang'e-3 mission

The Chang'e-3 mission is China's first attempt to land a space probe on a celestial body and the first time a soft-landing on the lunar surface has been carried out since America's Apollo missions of the 1960s and 70s. The mission makes up the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth. It follows earlier missions carried out by the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 lunar orbiters that included plotting a high-resolution, full-coverage lunar map. Named after Chang'e, the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology, Chang'e-3 incorporates a robotic lander and a rover.

With a budget estimated to be around $2bn a year -- almost a tenth of the budget NASA receives - China has stepped up the pace of its space program since first sending astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003, conducting 18 space launches alone in 2012.

Chang'e-3 will be launched in late 2013 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

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