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December 16, 2013 AT 4:53 AM
China successfully carried out the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades on Saturday, state media said, the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon. The unmanned Chang'e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth's nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process. The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called "Yutu," or "Jade Rabbit," the goddess' pet. After landing Saturday evening on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang'e eight hours later and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.