China has announced an ambitious five-year plan to explore outer space. The plan includes Beijing's previously-stated goals of putting a man on the moon and building a space station.
In a policy paper released Thursday, the China National Space Administration said Beijing will deploy space laboratories, launch manned spaceships and space freighters, and make technological preparations for the construction of a space station by the end of 2016.
It says the country will continue to explore the moon using probes, start gathering samples of the moon's surface and push forward its exploration of planets, asteroids and the sun.
The paper says China will also improve its launch vehicles, improve its communications, broadcasting and meteorological satellites and develop its own global satellite navigation system.
China's space program has already made major breakthroughs in a relatively short time, although it lags behind the United States and Russia in space technology and experience.
China holds up its space program as a symbol of the nation's growing global stature and technical expertise, and of the ruling Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
In 2003, China became the third country behind the United States and Russia to launch a man into space, and five years later, completed a spacewalk.
In November, it docked its Shenzhou-8 craft and the Tiangong-1 module, which will form part of a future space laboratory.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.