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China developing manned space mission to the moon: State media

In this TV grab, Chinas latest manned space capsule docked with the lab, the Tiangong-1 in space, 13 June 2013.
Imaginechina via AP Images

China is building a manned spacecraft capable of sending astronauts to the moon as well as near-Earth orbit flight, according to Chinese state media.

The official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China cited system chief architect Zhang Bainan who claimed the craft is being designed to carry as many as six astronauts.

The newspaper, Science and Technology Daily, quoted Zhang Bainan Tuesday as saying China wished to catch up with international standards of space exploration.

The fresh announcement follows a separate Chinese ambition to bring back samples from the

moon before the end of this year.

The unmanned Chang'e-5 lunar probe is undergoing a final round of tests and is expected to be on standby for launch from August, according to the official People's Daily.

China first landed an unmanned craft on the moon in December 2013. It marked the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

The United States' Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon, on 20 July 1969.