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JAPAN LAUNCHES LUNAR MISSION

Japan's first lunar probe lifted off today, billowing clouds of smoke and carrying Japanese hopes of becoming the third nation to reach the Earth's closest neighbor.

The three-stage red-and-silver M3S-2 rocket is to carry the Muses-A satellite into an elliptical orbit that will bring it to within 10,000 miles of the moon in eight weeks. Just before crossing the moon's path, a smaller satellite will break off the Muses-A and go into lunar orbit and send data to the larger satellite on temperatures and electrical fields.

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