Chinais planning to establish a permanent base on the Moon built with 3D-printed technology and is also considering a mission to Mars.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing on Monday, China National Space Administration (CNSA) officials revealed that the forthcoming Chang'e-5 mission will be launched before the end of the year, and will bring Moon rock samples back to Earth.
Chang'e-5 will be followed by three further missions that will explore the barren surface of the Moon and test equipment for an international lunar research base.
"Chang'e-5 will return mission sampling from the surface of the Moon around the end of this year," said Dr Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the CNSA and deputy commander of Lunar Exploration Programme.
The Chang'e-5 probe was earlier scheduled to collect lunar samples in the second half of 2017, but the mission was postponed after the failure of the Chinese Long March 5 Y2 rocket in a separate launch in July 2017.
Following the Chang'e-5 mission, China will launch Chang'e-6 to bring samples back from the South Pole of the Moon.
The Chang'e-7 mission will arrive at the Moon to carry out detailed surveys around the South Pole, including analysis of the landform and terrain and space environment in the region.
Chang'e-8 mission will conduct scientific experiments and test important technologies needed to construct a science and research base on the Moon. It will explore possibilities of building a lunar base using 3D-printing technology.
"We hope that Chang'e-8 will help test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries," Wu added.
Earlier this month, China became the first country in the world to successfully land a lunar probe, Chang'e-4, on the far side of the Moon. The lander touched down on the Von Kármán crater on 3 January, and beamed back the first-ever 'close range' image of the far side of the Moon, which is never visible from Earth.
Later, the rover, dubbed Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit), was released on the surface of the Moon. The rover remained in five days of hibernation before waking up to perform scientific experiments on the Von Karman Crater.
According to Wu Yanhua, Chinese scientists are also working on a Mars mission, could lift off as soon as 2020.
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