China has launched its first mission to land a rover on the moon that will transmit images and survey the moon's surface. The spacecraft is expected to land in mid-December.
The official Xinhua News Agency said a Long March-3B rocket carrying the Chang'e 3 lander blasted off Monday as scheduled at 1:30 a.m. from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.
If the mission goes as planned, the Chang'e 3 will become China's first spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
The moon rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances.
China's military-backed space program is a source of enormous national pride and has powered ahead in a series of well-funded, methodically timed steps.