Image Source: Peter Parks / AFP / Times Live.
The rover developed for China's Chang'e 3 (嫦娥三) lunar mission is going to land tomorrow on the moon in a historic event. If the landing is successful, it will be the first spacecraft on the moon in four decades. The first launch under this programme, Chang'e 1, occurred in 2007. Beijing will follow tomorrow's landing with another lunar lander mission, Chang'e 4, in 2015. From The Planetary Society:
For China's English language Youtube channel, CCTV, go here. Their videos, tagged, 'Journey to the Moon' are here; the playlist will likely feature new videos tomorrow.According to numerous Chinese news reports, Chang'e 3's landing on the Moon is now scheduled to begin at 21:40 Beijing time on December 14, which is 13:40 UT[, 8:40 Eastern] or 05:40 PT. That's about two hours earlier than previously stated. Once deceleration begins, the whole process will take about 750 seconds. Here is a Xinhua news site in English that may contain news updates about the landing. It is possible that this CCTV website will contain a news feed. Chinese television coverage will begin at 11:00 UT [or 6:00 a.m Eastern].
2 December 2013 launch of the Chang'e 3 rocket bearing the lander. Image Source: Xinhuanet News.
The Space Review confirms that the whole mission so far has been technically impressive and a :
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the coverage was the launch footage, including the use of high-resolution onboard cameras to show the rocket’s ascent and staging events. The spacecraft separation, including small thruster firings, looked spectacular. This footage shown as the launch happened was far better than coverage of American launches and demonstrated a keen Chinese understanding of the importance of good imagery to show off their work. ...
As propaganda—and on one level it was propaganda—it was an outstanding performance. Nobody was singing the praises of the Chinese Communist Party or mentioning Chairman Mao. They were just reporting the facts, which were impressive. As China has gained in self-confidence, they no longer need to engage in the kind of braggadocio used in the past, or which is still prevalent in North Korea. This was the cool confidence of a professional space power.
The person who provided the mission commentary was Xu Yansong of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). His English was nearly flawless, and other than a few minor errors his comments were illuminating and on point. As it turns out, APSCO, formed in the early 1990s, is actually a Chinese-led organization headquartered in Beijing. Its members include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Peru, and Thailand: not exactly first-tier space powers. APSCO is devoted to “education and training,” but its existence demonstrates China’s aspirations to lead other countries, to use its space capabilities as a method of influencing its neighbors.
Image Source: Bastille Post.
Image Source: Xinhuanet News.
Click image to enlarge. Image Source: 21 solo.
While the Americans referred to Greek mythology to designate their lunar missions (discussed here), the name of the Lunar Exploration Program, Chang'e, is an eponymous nod to the Chinese Goddess of the Moon.
The Chinese moon rabbit. Image Source: Wiki.
The Chang'e 3 lander's name, Yutu or Jade Rabbit, was selected in an online poll. The name remains popular because, according to Chinese lore, a rabbit - not a man as assumed in the west - lives on the moon. The rabbit pounds a mortar with a pestle to make the Moon goddess Chang'e an elixir of life or immortality. Just before the first moon landing in 1969, NASA recounted this story to its most famous astronauts:
In 2008, Daily Tech commented on how America has lost ground against other countries in space exploration, due to funding cuts which have continued up to the present:Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.Buzz Aldrin: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.
The U.S. is losing ground to competing space agencies as Europe, China, Russia and Japan continue to make progress in their space programs. Even though the U.S. still has the most military satellites monitoring Earth, both commercial and civilian space initiatives are severely lacking when compared to its international counterparts.It is most unfortunate that moon landing hoaxes are now more popular in America than actual moon landings, which shows how the broader US public has lost faith in big scientific enterprises.
There are several contributing factors into the decline of the U.S. space agency, though immediate fixes are not evident. Even though NASA has a long string of success, the unfortunate shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, budget issues, and the looming 2010 retirement of the current generation of space shuttles are all complicating matters.
"We spent many tens of billions of dollars during the Apollo era to purchase a commanding lead in space over all nations on Earth," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said. "We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not ... chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead."
China's Moon Goddess, Chang'e (click image to enlarge). Image Source: NASA.
ADDENDUM: Footage of Chinese lunar landing (14 December 2013). Video Source: Youtube.