China positions rocket ahead of ambitious lunar mission

China has moved a massive rocket into place in preparation for launching a mission to bring back materials from the moon for the first time in four decades

BEIJING -- China on Tuesday moved a massive rocket into place in preparation for launching a mission to bring back materials from the moon for the first time in four decades.

The Long March-5 was transported by tractor from its hangar to the nearby launch site at the space base in Wenchang along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.

The mission, named for the Chinese moon goddess, is among China's most ambitious as its space program continues to build steam since it first put a man in space in 2003, becoming only the third nation to do so after the U.S. and Russia.

China currently has a mission on the way to Mars, along with a rover on the moon's far side that is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, information vital for any country that plans to send astronauts to the moon.

The space program has progressed cautiously, with relatively few setbacks in recent years. The Long March-5, nicknamed “Fat 5” because of its bulky shape, failed on a previous launch attempt, but China's enormous pool of technical and engineering talent appears to have allowed it to overcome most obstacles.