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China approves 2nd-phase lunar probe program
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China's State Council, the cabinet, has approved the country's second-phase lunar probe program, the Beijing Times reported on Wednesday. It cited Luan Enjie, the director-in-chief of the China Moon-orbiting Program.

"We are organizing people to make detailed plans for the program," Luan told a conference on Tuesday.

He also said that investment in the second phase would exceed that for the first lunar probe but didn't give specific figures, the Times said.

China successfully launched its first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, in October. The cost for that project was about 1 billion to 1.4 billion yuan (about US$143 to 200 million).

The launch of Chang'e-1 is the first step in China's three-stage moon mission, which also includes the launch of a lunar rover for a soft landing and a second rover that is to collect lunar soil and stone samples for research.

Many Chinese universities and scientific institutes are developing their own rovers, according to Luan, who said: "The final product will combine the merits of all these rovers."

China plans to land a probe on the moon in 2013, Ye Peijian, the chief designer of Chang'e-1, said earlier this month.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2008)

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