XICHANG, China, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- China's first recoverable moon orbiter will be launched by the end of 2014 to test technology leading to an expected 2017 unmanned moon landing.
The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense made the announcement Sunday, China's state-run news agency Xinhua said.
The orbiter, named the Chang'e-5, will collect lunar samples and then return to earth, and follows the mission of the Chang'e-3, which landed on the moon in December 2013.
China has conducted several unmanned explorations of the moon. However, the upcoming lunar expedition will be more complex than previous attempts, involving a take-off from the moon's surface, docking with a spacecraft in lunar orbit and returning to earth.
The orbiter to be tested in 2014 is regarded as a test model, and is currently at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's Sichuan province.