It was still dark out when China launched its first-ever spacecraft toting a lunar lander early Monday morning. The Long March rocket, part of the Chang-3 mission, lifted off at 1:30 am Beijing time (12:30 pm EST). (You can watch the spectacular lift off here.)
Soft landing – Landing a machine in such a way to be able to operate it post touchdown.
While this is not the first time China has successfully ventured to the moon—the country sent a satellite to orbit the celestial body in 2007 and then purposefully crashed it into the planetoid in 2009—this mission marks the first “soft landing” attempt by the Asian superpower. Only the United States and Russia have ever successfully pulled off such feats, back in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Legend of the Jade Rabbit – A long time ago, three wise men tested the generosity of a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The men disguised themselves as beggars and asked each animal for food. Only the rabbit fulfilled their request. The rabbit had no food of his own to share. Instead, it offered up his body by jumping into a fire pit. Overwhelmed by the rabbit’s sacrifice, the men granted the rabbit eternal life in the moon.
In mid-December, the rover, named “Yutu” in Chinese, which translates to Jade Rabbit in English, is scheduled to hop into a relatively smooth volcanic crater on the moon known as Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows. The rover’s name was selected by a public poll and is derived from folklore.
Once successfully situated on the moon’s surface, the Jade Rabbit robot is expected to spend three months roving. Its itinerary includes setting up a telescope, surveying the area’s geology and looking for natural resources such as titanium and uranium.
Is this just the first step to putting a Chinese man or woman on the moon?
At this point, there are no set dates for manned missions to the moon. However, Chinese scientists have discussed this mission as the “first step” in further deep-space travel and had declared wanting to develop a space station by 2020.
A +$1,800 Hiccup
Debris from the rocket launch fell on two homes in a small village in Hunan province, bashing holes into their roofs. The crash site is located several hundred miles away from the southwestern launch site in Xichang province.
According to local news sources, the crash occurred 9 minutes after lift off.
The families of the wrecked houses were swiftly compensated over $1,800 combined for the incident by the government.
This is not the first time this region has been rained on with space-related debris. There have been 20 separate incidents since 1990.
As China moves ahead with its space plans, plotting bigger, bolder missions in the future, it is likely this area will see more debris fallout.