Anticipation builds for China's first moon rover mission

The Chang'e-3 rocket carrying the "Jade Rabbit" rover to explore the moon is set to blast off at 1:30 am local time.


Afp December 01, 2013
The launch pad of the Long March 3B rocket carrying the Chang'e-3 lunar probe is seen at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Liangshan, Sichuan province. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: China's state media and people eagerly awaited the launch early Monday of the country's first lunar rover mission, the next step in an ambitious space programme.

The Chang'e-3 rocket carrying the "Jade Rabbit" rover to explore the moon is set to blast off at 1:30 am local time.

It will be the third such rover mission to the moon but will boast more sophisticated technology than US and Soviet missions decades earlier.

"The news channel will begin live coverage tonight at midnight... Spread the word!" state broadcaster CCTV said on its official account on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

The background of its Weibo page showed the moon's surface in black and white with the gold-coloured rover bearing the national flag of bright red with yellow stars.

China National Radio on one of its Weibo accounts promised two hours of live coverage starting an hour before the launch.

"Gonna stay up tonight to watch the live coverage! Go Chang'e! Go Jade Rabbit!" wrote one Weibo user.

"The news on TV about Chang'e 3 has made me incredibly proud," said another.

Only a few "narrow windows" of time are available for the launch over the coming days, some lasting only a few minutes, mission spokesman Pei Zhaoyu told Xinhua news agency on Friday.

If successful, the mission, aimed at exploring the moon's surface and looking for natural resources, will be a milestone in China's space exploration programme.

It is "the most complicated and difficult task yet in China's exploration of space" and incorporates lots of new technology, Xinhua quoted Wu Zhijian, a spokesman with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, as saying last week.

Unlike previous American and Soviet versions, the Chang'e-3 could "accurately survey landforms at the landing site and identify the safest spots on which to land", Xinhua has said.

The Jade Rabbit can climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200 metres per hour, according to its designer the Shanghai Aerospace Systems Engineering Research Institute.

Its name - chosen in an online poll of 3.4 million voters - derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of Chang'e, a lunar goddess who swallowed an immortality pill.

China considers its space programme a symbol of its rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.

The military-led programme aims to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send someone to the moon.

Since 2003 it has sent 10 astronauts into space and launched an orbiting space module, Tiangong-1.

It also sent probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010.

The first of those intentionally crashed into the moon's surface at the end of its mission. Data it collected was used to create in 2008 what Xinhua called "the most complete lunar hologram to date".

The second probe was sent to "verify key technology", orbit the moon and take pictures of the landing site in preparation for Chang'e-3, Xinhua said. After completing that task it was sent into deep space to monitor an astroid.

Not all Weibo users praised the latest mission, saying China's global stature needs improving in other ways and  public funds might be better spent helping its own people.

"What kind of strategic significance is there?" one commentator said.

"It's a waste of taxpayer money. Citizens still bear heavy burdens and the country is still weak in foreign relations."

COMMENTS (10)

polpot | 8 years ago | Reply

Let me share a secret with you ++++++++++++++++++++++ The Chinese venture is based on technology stolen from the Pakistanis.

Desi boy | 8 years ago | Reply

Posted this already in the Indian Mars mission article so I'm pasting this information in this article too. I see a lot of negative comments for the Space programmes for both India (mostly) and China (less since its Pakistan's friendly country) since they are poor countries with lots of poor people and that money should be spent on development....etc. But what people fail to realize is that without these programmes there will be a brain drain of scientists to other countries. That is one major reason but there are other reasons where some of the technology can be used for other developmental applications like Defense, Telecommunications, Agriculture, Weather......etc. Since these are inexpensive programmes, with greater advancement in rocket and space technology, they become self reliant and also capture a share of business and actually make a profit and pay for itself compared to the Western countries. Technology and Innovation are extremely important in our current world. Failure to realize this will mean a huge loss for a country in a number of ways.

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