Chinese scientists are studying key technology in a bid to send robots to the moon.
The space machines will take on the lunar exploration mission before Chinese astronauts set foot on the moon, according to Sun Zengqi, a leading space robot researcher.
"Besides the lunar mission, space robots will play an important role in China's space activities, including servicing satellites and carrying out scientific experiments in space stations,'' said Sun, deputy dean of the Department of Computer Science and Technology of Beijing-based Tsinghua University.
Luan Enjie, director of the State Aerospace Bureau, has confirmed the Chinese will explore the moon and actively participate in exploring Mars after manned spaceship aviation is achieved.
Because of the danger and expense involved in exploring space with astronauts, robots were considered essential to progress research, Sun said.
China's first space robot research centre has been set up in Beijing.
"We have made many breakthroughs in researching this technology,'' said Liang Bin, deputy director of the research centre. "If it is required by China's space plan, the robot will be sent up very soon.''
Leading expert Sun Zengqi said at the International Conference on Engineering and Technological Sciences -- which finished in Beijing on Saturday -- that the space robot would be small and dexterous, could move easily, climb slopes, get around obstacles and cope with the moon's poor environment.
The machine will investigate possible landing sites for astronauts and other areas of scientific interest on the moon. It will collect research samples and send lunar images back to earth, Sun said.