China lands Jade Rabbit robot rover on Moon

Lunar surfaceBBC – by Paul Rincon

China says it has successfully landed a craft carrying a robotic rover on the surface of the Moon, a major step in its programme of space exploration.

On Saturday afternoon (GMT), a landing module underwent a powered descent, using thrusters to perform the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years.

Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as “Jade Rabbit”.  

The touchdown took place on a flat plain called the Bay of Rainbows.

The mission launched on a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket on 1 December from Xichang in the country’s south.

The Chang’e-3 craft began its descent just after 1300 GMT (2100 Beijing time), with state television showing pictures of the moon’s surface as the lander touched down.

Staff at mission control in Beijing were shown clapping and celebrating after confirmation came through. The European Space Agency said its tracking stations confirmed the touchdown independently just after 1316 GMT.

The task was described as the mission’s “most difficult” in a post on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, which had been written by the Chinese Academy of Sciences on behalf of the space authorities.

It is the third robotic rover mission to land on the lunar surface, but the Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

The 120kg (260lb) Jade Rabbit rover can reportedly climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200m (660ft) per hour.

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 the lunar goddess Chang’e.

According to translated documents, the landing module was to actively reduce its speed at about 15km from the Moon’s surface.

When it reached a distance of 100m from the surface, the craft fired thrusters to slow its descent.

At a distance of 4m, the lander switched off the thrusters and fell to the lunar surface.

The Jade Rabbit was expected to be deployed several hours after touchdown, driving down a ramp lowered by the landing module.


Reports suggest the lander and rover will photograph each other at some point on Sunday.

According to Chinese space scientists, the mission is designed to test new technologies, gather scientific data and build intellectual expertise.

Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington DC, said China’s space programme was a good fit with China’s concept of “comprehensive national power”. This might be described as a measure of a state’s all-round capabilities.

Space exploration was, he told BBC News, “a reflection of your economic power, because you need spare resources to have a space programme. It clearly has military implications because so much space technology is dual use”.

He added: “It reflects your scientific and technological capabilities, it supports your diplomacy by making you appear strong.

“China is saying: ‘We are doing something that only two other countries have done before – the US and the Soviet Union.”

Mr Cheng explained that the mission would provide an opportunity to test China’s deep-space tracking and communications capability.

“The rover will reportedly be under Earth control at various points of its manoeuvres on the lunar surface,” Mr Cheng wrote in a blog post.

“Such a space observation and tracking system has implications not only for space exploration but for national security, as it can be used to maintain space surveillance, keeping watch over Chinese and other nations’ space assets.”

MoonThe Jade Rabbit, seen in this artist’s impression, is the first wheeled vehicle on the Moon since the 1970s

The European Space Agency said it would provide communications support on the mission. Erik Sorenson, head of ground facilities at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, said Esa’s tracking facilities would be able to reconstruct the craft’s trajectory during descent and determine its precise location on the Moon.

China has been methodically and patiently building up the key elements needed for an advanced space programme – from launchers to manned missions in Earth orbit to unmanned planetary craft – and it is investing heavily.

The lander’s target is Sinus Iridum (Latin for Bay of Rainbows) a flat volcanic plain thought to be relatively clear of large rocks. It is part of a larger feature known as Mare Imbrium that forms the right eye of the “Man in the Moon”.

After this, a mission to bring samples of lunar soil back to Earth is planned for 2017. And this may set the stage for further robotic missions, and – perhaps – a crewed lunar mission in the 2020s.

“[Chang’e-3] is probably laying some of the groundwork for a manned mission,” said Mr Cheng. and follow me on Twitter

8 thoughts on “China lands Jade Rabbit robot rover on Moon

  1. All this, while the united States hitches a ride to the INTL space station from the Russians!
    But, we can afford to bail out the banks and continue to fund Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

  2. What’s important to note here is that a robot was landed on the moon; not a human.

    As it happens, no living organism can survive passage through the Van Allen radiation belt that surrounds the planet (the space shuttle never came close to it) and this is one reason we know the Apollo moon landings were just another hoax.

    Before and after the U.S. “Moon walks” NASA had absolutely no success at keeping a monkey, or rabbits alive for very long after passing through the belt, but we’re expected to believe that humans came back and forth unscathed.

    1. C’mon now…you know they used that heavy duty Reynolds wrap aluminum to shield the radiation.
      That Mylar wrap was so strong it even repelled space debris…….hummmmm….yeah right! 😉

    2. “As it happens, no living organism can survive passage through the Van Allen radiation belt that surrounds the planet (the space shuttle never came close to it) and this is one reason we know the Apollo moon landings were just another hoax.”

      I knew the moon landing more than likely a hoax, but I didn’t know that was one of the possible reasons why. Thanks for the info. JR.

  3. Maybe this will prove the Mars landings by the U.S were a load of shi* loke everything else they stand for… I bet it is miles away and not able to photo graph where the lander etc should be but if it is, would the Chinese expose them or are they all in it together? God bless us all….

  4. Yes, so the Chinese just happened to have the ability to land on the moon by themselves after all this time with little or no help. Bullshit!

    Since we have freely given everything over to the Chinese and moved all our resources to them, they are now doing everything that we have done and should still be doing, if the damn international corporate mafia and the foreign Communist government governing our country didn’t getaway with committing sedition and high treason against our country.

    Got hemp, anyone?

  5. Wow! So I’m assuming that’s OUR gold that was freely shipped over to China that is strapped around that rover and making it run around. China, the pirate capital of the world. Do these assholes have one, unique, innovative thought in their heads?

    Oh that’s right! Thinking and questioning is outlawed in Communist countries. They must act like robots and zombies and do what they are told.

    Hey, that sounds an awful lot like Amerika! God help us all!

  6. Considering that Chinese students are excelling in math and science while American high school’s are losing ground rapidly in these subjects this is only a harbinger of things to come. The Chinese are advancing rapidly. Before we know it they will no doubt have a manned base on the Moon.

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