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Beijing launches lunar probe

China launched an unmanned lunar probe yesterday.

It is the latest milestone for an ambitious space programme that aims to put a man on the moon later this decade.

The Chang'e II was shot into space aboard a Long March 3C rocket from the launch site in south-western China's Sichuan province, according to footage aired by the state broadcaster China Central Television. The probe plans to test technology in preparation for an unmanned moon landing in 2012, with a possible manned lunar mission to follow in 2017. China launched its first manned flight in 2003.