China plans to launch its unmanned lunar landing program sometime in 2004, with a lunar satellite launched by 2007, a senior space official told the Chinese Xinhua News Agency this week.

The satellite project is designed to obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyze the content of useful elements and materials on the surface, and probe the depth of the lunar soil and the space environment between the Earth and the Moon, said Sun Laiyan, deputy director of the China National Space Administration.

China would use its Long March III A launch vehicle to launch the satellite, which would be based on its Dongfanghong satellite platform, said Sun.

The lunar program is also known as the Chang'e Program, referring to a goddess who reached the Moon in an ancient Chinese fairy tale.

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