As its first attempt at manned space flight nears, China has announced plans to launch a research satellite that would orbit the moon.
The official media say the satellite would be placed into orbit within the next three years, and would function for about a year. Officials say that after the launch, it will take eight or nine days for the satellite to reach the moon.
China's manned space program is shrouded in secrecy, and there has been no announcement of when the first manned space flight will take place. Experts say they expect it to happen near the end of this month.
China would become just the third country to put a person into orbit, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. Unlike those country's first manned space flights, China's will involve more than one astronaut.
Earlier this year, the Chinese space agency successfully launched an unmanned space capsule. That spacecraft orbited the earth for a week before landing in a northern desert region.