China Successfully Lands a Rover on the Moon

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Dec. 16 2013 8:00 AM

China Lands on the Moon

Yutu
Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit", is wheels-down on the Moon.

Photo by CNSA / CCTV via The Planetary Society blog

Over the weekend, China landed a rover on the Moon.

The mission is called Chang’e 3, and the rover is called Yutu, which means “Jade Rabbit”. It launched on Dec. 1, and orbited the Moon for about a week. On Dec. 14, the lander touched down near the edge of Mare Imbrium, and a few hours later deployed the rover.

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As it descended, it took a ton of images, and they have been put together into this very cool video:

This is the first soft landing on the Moon in nearly 40 years, and was undertaken to test out technology and perform some science experiments from the lunar surface. I’ll defer to my friend Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society blog for details on all this (including earlier posts about the mission itself).

My thoughts haven’t changed since I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad humans are sending things to the Moon — read what Sean Carroll wrote about that — but I’d like to see the United States taking this sort of thing more seriously. When the US dreams big, it can make grand things happen. We’re becoming more insular in our outlook on a lot of things, including space exploration, and that’s a damn shame.

We can reach for the stars is we want to. We just have to choose to do so.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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