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China to launch second lunar probe

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's first probe, Chang-e-1, hit the moon in a controlled crash in March
  • China's third nation after United States and Russia to put a person in orbit
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Beijing, China (CNN) -- China will launch a second lunar probe next October, state-run media reported Friday.

The probe, named Chang'e-2, will orbit 60 miles (100 km) closer to the moon than the nation's first probe, which launched in 2007, according to China Daily.

That unmanned probe, Chang-e-1, hit the moon in a controlled crash in March after a 16-month mission.

Chang'e-2 is part of the second phase of China's ambitious lunar exploration program. In the third phase, scheduled for 2017, China plans to send a spacecraft to collect samples on the moon, China Daily reported.

The country's space program has made significant steps this decade.

In 2003 China became the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to put a person in orbit. That year, Yang Liwei was celebrated as a national hero when he became the first Chinese in space.

Five years later, Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese to make a spacewalk.