BEIJING China aims to chart every inch of the moon's surface, the chief scientist of the country's first lunar exploration program said in comments published on Friday.
China, which plans to launch a lunar orbiter called "Chang'e One" in the second half of 2007 to take 3D images, would aim to land an unmanned vehicle on its surface by 2010, official news portal Chinanews.com quoted Ouyang Ziyuan as saying.
"Currently, our country's lunar exploration program is divided into three phases -- orbiting the moon, landing on the moon and returning back to Earth," Ouyang said.
The second phase would see an unmanned craft land on the moon to "meticulously" survey a certain area, and the third phase would aim to "bring samples back to earth", he added.
China's space exploration program has come far since late leader Mao Zedong lamented that China could not even launch a potato into space.
In 2003, it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to launch a man into space aboard its own rocket. In October 2005, it sent two men into orbit and plans a space walk by 2008.
But China's space plans have faced increasing international scrutiny amid fears about a potential space arms race with the United States and other powers since it blew up one of its own weather satellites using a ground-based missile in January.