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China Crashes Satellite Into Moon

China crashed a lunar probe into the moon Sunday, according to Chinese media reports.

The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense told the People's Daily Online that Chang'e I crashed onto the lunar surface at 4:13 p.m. Beijing time.

Images released by the Chinese government show that the lunar satellite circled the Earth three times before traveling toward the moon and circling it twice before its crash. The government said the Chang'e I was controlled remotely and began to reduce speed about 45 minutes before the crash. Images show the lunar satellite breaking apart on impact.

The deliberate crash of the lunar satellite aimed to give China experience for a moon landing in two years and eventual launch of an unmanned lunar rover, according to the report.

China hopes to collect soil and stone samples from the moon by 2017 and send a manned rover to the moon by 2020. The country also plans to build its own space station. After the Chang'e I crash, China announced plans to send a space module, Tiangong-I, next year. The government said Chinese astronauts will live in the module and research zero gravity.

In 2003, China became the third nation to send humans into space, nearly 35 years after the United States celebrated Neil Armstrong's moonwalk.

The Chang'e I, named after a Chinese moon goddess, launched in October 2007 and spent 494 days in space. It captured stereo radar images to provide a complete map of the moon's surface, according to media reports.