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China's Chang'e 3 prepared for a lunar landing

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According to a December 13, 2013 report on CNN, China’s Chang’e 3, currently in orbit around the moon, is scheduled to land in the Bay of Rainbows on the lunar surface on December 14 at 3 p.m. GMT or 10 a.m. EST. If the landing is successful, the lander will deploy the Jade Rabbit rover that will spend at least three months exploring the lunar surface.

“Weighing 140 kilograms, the slow-moving rover carries an optical telescope for astronomical observations and a powerful ultraviolet camera that will monitor how solar activity affects the various layers -- troposphere, stratosphere and ionosphere -- that make up the Earth's atmosphere, China's information technology ministry said in a statement.

“The Jade Rabbit is also equipped with radioisotope heater units, allowing it to function during the cold lunar nights when temperatures plunge as low as -180°C (-292°F).”

China has previously sent two probes, the Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2, in orbit around the moon. It plans one more lander/rover mission before sending a sample return probe to the lunar surface. Analysts widely believe that China intends to send a crewed expedition to the lunar surface in the 2020s, something that hasn’t been accomplished since the flight of Apollo 17 in December, 1972. While there is a private sector contest to land robotic probes on the moon sponsored by the Google Lunar X Prize, NASA has no funded plans to land on the moon.

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