China is finally going to do something that the U.S. and Russia did 30 plus years ago, soft-land a rover on the moon. It looks as if it just might be successful.
This rover, the Chang’e-3 also known by its nickname, “Jade Rabbit” is set to start exploring the moon on Sunday, giving China the recognition and credibility of a true space power and bringing them a step closer to putting a man on the moon.
“This is a very significant step for their space program,” says Gregory Kulacki, who studies China’s efforts in space for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a prospecting mission, their first real chance to test whether there are mineral resources on the moon.”
This rover has some pretty amazing tricks – it can see 300 feet under the surface by using a radar device designed to analyze rocks and identify minerals and other potentially useful elements that may lie under the lunar surface.
The Chinese have long sought to mine the moon for useful minerals and elements. The prospect of mining the moon still inspires Chinese scientists as it once did American space enthusiasts, though some observers say the scientists are simply seeking justifications for their large budgets.
The United Nations Moon Agreement, developed in 1979 restricts any country on earth – ownership of any resources found on the moons surface, or below the surface. However, China has never signed this agreement, nor has the U.S. for that matter. The US and the former Soviet Union are the only other two nations to complete successful soft – or controlled – lunar landings; the last was the Soviet Union in 1976.
“Jade Rabbit” is named for a pet belonging to Chang’e the goddess of the moon in Chinese legend. The magnificent looking rover should be transmitting information back to earth for months to come. If everything goes as planned, China’s next mission to the moon will be to collect lunar materials, and bring them back for analysis.
Just in case there is something the Chinese might be able to use here on earth.
Image via YouTube