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China is preparing to send a man to the moon

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A "senior space official" said China is making preliminary preparations to send a man to the moon, The Independent reported, citing state media.

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space after successful efforts from the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. 

The launch would be the latest installment in China's lunar exploration program. 

China successfully completed its first "soft landing" on the moon's surface in 2013 with the Chang'e-3 craft and the Jade Rabbit rover. China also wants to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018. A government official said in 2016 that the country wanted to have astronauts on the moon by 2036. 

China says its space program is being used strictly for peaceful purposes, but the Defense Department has said that China may look to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets should the need arise.

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