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Jade Rabbit: China launches first rover to moon

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China launched a moon rover on Monday, aiming a space craft named Jade Rabbit directly at the earth’s major satellite. The robotic rover is designed to collect dirt samples, reports the Christian Science Monitor on Monday, Dec. 2, and to send pictures back to earth. The unmanned craft blasted off from a launch center in southwestern China, and it is expected to land on the moon sometime in mid-December.

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the Jade Rabbit mission is strictly aimed at studying the moon’s geology. The rover, which is solar-powered, will attempt to set up a telescope and study the plasma surrounding the lunar body. "We will strive for our space dream as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation," reported Xichang Satellite Launch Center director Zhang Zhenzhong.

The rover craft is a Chang'e 3 spaceship, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon. "Yutu" — or "Jade Rabbit" — is named for the godess’ pet.

If the landing is successful, it will make China the third country to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. China has already deliberately crash-landed a vehicle, but the intention this time is a landing that will preserve scientific equipment in working condition. Manned space flight, which the U.S. has accomplished more than once, is another level up from there.

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