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China Blasts 'Jade Rabbit' to the Moon

BEIJING (AP) - China's first rover mission to the moon, launched on Dec. 2, is set to land this week. The robotic craft, Jade Rabbit, will trundle across the lunar landscape, examine its geology and beam images back to Earth.

A rocket carrying the rover aboard an unmanned Chang'e 3 spaceship blasted off from a launch center in southwestern China, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Its mid-December scheduled lunar landing is approaching. "We will strive for our space dream as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation," Xichang Satellite Launch Center director Zhang Zhenzhong said.

If the Chang'e 3 successfully soft-lands on the moon, China will become the third country to do so, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. A soft landing does not damage the craft and the equipment it carries.

An earlier Chinese craft orbited and collected data before intentionally crash-landing on the moon.

Chang'e is a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, and Yutu -- "Jade Rabbit" -- is her pet.

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