Beijing: China has drawn up a technical plan to send an orbiter to Mars in 2013 for exploration of the planet.
The earliest possible launch date for the orbiter is 2013, Huang Jiangchuan, a space technology expert with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), told the state-run CCTV.
The plan was based on a research conducted by (CAST) and the project will make use of technologies developed for China`s first lunar satellite launched in 2007, he said.
The technologies likely to be used including the ones to boost the satellite`s payload capability and exploration accuracy were already quite advanced, Huang said.
China`s second unmanned lunar probe Chang`e-II, which has reached the lunar orbit, has the option to return to earth as it saved enough fuel to fly back, a Chinese space official
China, which launched Cheng`e-II earlier this month, plans to send Chang`e-III in 2013 to land a rover on the Moon to collect the samples and return to earth.
All this was being regarded a test run for its plan to send a manned mission to moon by 2025.
Recently, a Chinese space scientist said Chang`e-II, named after the Chinese mythical moon Goddess which went 100km close to the lunar surface, may have the option to return to earth as it saved enough fuel.
Zhou Jianliang, the vice chief-designer in Beijing Aerospace Control Centre (BACC) which is monitoring the satellite, said Chang`e-II may meet three possible "fates"
after it finishes its six-month mission: landing on the moon; flying to outer space; or returning to earth.
The fate of Chang`e-II will be decided according to its condition when the mission is complete.
The Long March-3C carrier rocket took Chang`e-II into space from southwest China on October 1. The probe completed its final braking on October 9 and is now orbiting the moon at a 100 km-high orbit.