China’s Jade Rabbit leaps to the Moon

By Casey Frye, CCNN Head Writer

Jade Rabbit moon
The Jade Rabbit will explore the lunar landscape after landing.

China’s first-ever unmanned Moon probe successfully launched Monday on its two-week trip to deliver a robotic rover to the lunar surface. Once it arrives by mid-December in a place called the Bay of Rainbows, the six-wheeled and solar-powered rover will collect data for 3 months. Named Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”), after a Chinese folk tale about a lunar rabbit, the rover will look for natural resources and study the rocky ground.

The spacecraft, which is decorated in China’s red flag with five stars, is the first to visit the Moon since the Soviet Union (now Russia) in 1976. Wang Wei, an economics professor from China, admits, “Of course there is still a definite gap from America sending humans to the [Moon], but this is already amazing.”

Encouraging international cooperation, former NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, Leroy Chiao, said, “America, already on the decline after the retirement of the space shuttle (now only Russia and China can launch astronauts into space), will on the way down hand over the leadership position of human spaceflight to the Chinese.” He added that if the US joined forces with China, it would be “a win-win-win for all”, and that the only thing holding this partnership back are “certain members of the US Congress dedicated to keeping China out, dooming the United States to continue its decline in human spaceflight.”

Images courtesy of RyukyuSARs on YouTube.