Photo taken of China’s Chang’e-3 Moon lander which made a historic lunar touchdown in December of 2013. Credit: CAS

China has announced that it will attempt another historic feat in 2017, this time with the Chang’e-5’s mission to return lunar samples from the Moon.

This comes on the heels of China’s recent headline-making milestone in space exploration, when their Chang’e-3 lunar lander made a soft landing on the Moon’s surface this past December. It marked first time the country made contact with another celestial body.

In the meantime, China intends to launch a test orbiter – the Chang’e 4, which was designated as a backup for the Chang’e-3.  The spacecraft is slated to head Moon-ward before making a fiery, high-speed dive into Earth’s atmosphere, laying the ground work for the coming Chang’e-5 mission.

The 2017 mission will mark some innovative breakthroughs in space technology – according to Chinese officials – including lunar surface takeoff, rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, and high-speed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

If China is successful in returning from the Moon, they may move towards possible manned missions into space, according to Ye Peijian, a China Academy of Space Technology senior adviser.