These comments are a sign that Chinese ambitions in space go far beyond a manned space flight. A top defence official, Wang Shuquan, said China will conduct tests for a future lunar landing and the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper has described the next milestone after the manned space flight as sending a satellite to orbit the moon. This lunar orbiter would circle the moon for a year, gathering information about the moon's geology, soil, environment and natural resources.
In the past Chinese officials have even talked of the possibility of establishing a base on the moon.
But what happens to these plans is likely to depend on the success of China's manned space flight, and although no dates have been officially revealed, that's believed to be just days away. The speculation in the Chinese press is that it will blast off just after the plenary meeting of the Communist party's central committee which ends on October 14th.
A successful launch will spark an outpouring of national pride, boosting the credibility of the Communist party. Failure however would be a huge loss of face.
It's not yet known who China's first astronaut, or taikonaut, as they are called here, will be. But reports say fourteen would-be astronauts have arrived at the launch pad at Jiuquan in western Gansu province and are training inside the actual spacecraft.