China launched its first rover mission to the surface of the moon Monday, sending a robotic craft named Jade Rabbitto move across the lunar landscape, examine its geology and beam images back to Earth.
A rocket carrying the rover aboard the unmanned Chang’e-3 spaceship successfully blasted off early Monday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China and was scheduled to arrive on the moon in mid-December, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"We will strive for our space dream as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation," Xichang director Zhang Zhenzhong said.
In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is a goddess of the moon, and Yutu — or Jade Rabbit — is her pet.
If the Chang’e-3 soft-lands on the moon, China will be the third country to do so, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. A soft landing does not damage the craft or the equipment it carries. An earlier Chinese craft orbited and collected data before intentionally crash-landing on the moon.