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China readies to launch 2nd lunar probe

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • More than 2,000 residents will be evacuated near the launch site as a precaution
  • The launch is to happen on or around October 1, China's National Day
  • The Chang'e-2 lunar probe will test key landing technology
  • China launched its first lunar probe in 2007

Beijing, China (CNN) -- China will evacuate more than 2,000 residents, as it prepares to launch the nation's second lunar probe, state-run media said Wednesday.

The Chang'e-2 lunar probe is to be launched on or around China's National Day, which falls on October 1, China Daily said.

Residents within 2.5 kilometers of the launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwest province of Sichuan will be evacuated as a precaution.

The lunar probe will test key landing technology for Chang'e-3, and provide high-resolution photographs of the landing area, China Daily said, citing space officials. Chang'e-2 is expected to reach lunar orbit within five days.

Video: Inside China's space program
Video: China eyes space

China launched its first lunar probe in 2007. Chang'e-1 hit the moon in a controlled crash in March 2009 after a 16-month mission.

In the third phase of China's lunar exploration program, Chang'e-3 is to land on the moon in 2013, to collect rock samples and bring them to Earth in 2017.

The series of Chang'e probes is named after China's mythical Moon Goddess.

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.