China intends to land its first probe on the moon at the end of this year, the next step in an ambitious programme which includes eventually building a space station.
State media said preparations were underway for the launch of Chang'e-3, the latest stage in its efforts to put a person on the moon.
The craft will use a radio-controlled rover to transmit images and dig into the moon's surface to test samples.
In June, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked their craft with an experimental space laboratory, which was launched in 2011.
The station is due to be replaced by a permanent station in seven years.
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. The BBC reports the space programme is a source of national pride.