China to send ‘jade rabbit’ buggy to moon next month

Reuters, BEIJING

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 - Page 6

China is to land its first probe on the moon early next month, which is to deploy a buggy to explore its surface, an official said yesterday, marking a major milestone in the country’s space ambitions.

China has already photographed the surface of the moon to prepare for the landing, a spokesman for the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said.

In 2007, China launched its first moon orbiter, the Chang’e One orbiter, named after a lunar goddess, which took images of the surface and analyzed the distribution of elements.

The lunar explorer buggy was named Yutu in a public vote. Yutu means “jade rabbit,” a reference to Chang’e pet rabbit in folklore.

“Chang’e Three’s mission requires mastering many key technologies. The technical difficulties and the risks involved in carrying out the mission will be high,” spokesman Wu Zhijian (吳志堅) told a news conference, carried live on Chinese state television.

“In taking on the mission to land on the moon, Chang’e Three will help China fulfill it’s lunar exploration dream, it’s space dream and the Chinese dream,” Wu said.

Scientists have discussed the possibility of sending a man to the moon some time after 2020.

China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the US and Russia, which decades ago learned the docking techniques China is only now mastering.

China says it will share the technological achievements of its manned space program with other nations, especially developing ones, and will offer to train astronauts from other countries.