China announced it will launch its third spacecraft to the moon as part of its Lunar Exploration Program in the second half of 2013, according to the state Xinhua news agency.
The Chang'e 3, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, is part of the second step of China's three-phrase lunar probe project of orbiting, landing and returning.
Chang'e 3 includes a lander and rover that will jointly carry out exploration activities. Scientific objectives include investigating the lunar landscape and exploring the geological structure of the moon. The rover will carry a nuclear-powered battery -expected to last up to 30 years- that will last throughout the long and cold lunar nights.
China launched the Chang'e-1 in 2007 and the Chang'e-2 in 2010. The first probe gathered scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second one created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium.
Chang'e 3 is expected to be launched at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan province.