China Launches First Mission To The Moon And Back

China has launched its first mission to orbit the Moon and return to Earth.

The unmanned experimental craft took off from the Xichang space port in the Sichuan province.

China said the probe will go to the Moon, fly once around it and return to Earth.

"The first stage of the first return journey test in China's moon probe programme has been successful," the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said after the launch.

China plans to create an orbiting station around Earth by 2020 and to send humans to the Moon after that. The Chinese Jade Rabbit robot is currently just-about-functioning on the surface of the Moon, and while it has been hit by many technical troubles it has been deemed a success by the authorities.