China launches lunar probe

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China has launched its second lunar exploration probe, boosting the country's efforts to rise as a major space power.

The Chang'e-2 orbiter blasted off from a remote corner of the southwestern province of Sichuan on Friday morning, according to state media.

The probe is expected to fly as close as 9.3 miles above the moon and take high-resolution photos of the Bay of Rainbows.

China is jostling with neighbours Japan and India for a bigger presence in outer space but its plans have faced international scrutiny.

Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers have mounted since China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.

The Chang'e is named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon.

A successful Chang'e-2 mission would mark another advance in China's plan to establish itself as a space power in the same league as the United States and Russia.

China launched its first moon orbiter, the Chang'e-1, in October 2007, accompanied by a blaze of patriotic propaganda celebrating the country's technological prowess.

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