One small step for man… one giant leap for rabbits


BBC reports the Chinese have achieved the first moon soft landing of a remote controlled vehicle in 37 years.

China says it has successfully landed a craft carrying a robotic rover on the surface of the Moon, the first soft landing there for 37 years.

On Saturday afternoon (GMT), a landing module used thrusters to touch down, marking the latest step in China’s ambitious space exploration programme.

Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as “Jade Rabbit”.

The touchdown took place on a flat plain called Sinus Iridum.

It’s rather odd that it has taken 37 years. ?These days you can “almost” strap a GoPro to a commercially available set of parts and get most of the way. ?(Ok, I’m kidding, but you know what I mean) ?

According to Chinese space scientists, the mission is designed to test new technologies, gather scientific data and build intellectual expertise, as well as scouting for mineral resources that could eventually be mined.

“China’s lunar program is an important component of mankind’s activities to explore [the] peaceful use of space,” said Sun Huixian, a space engineer with the Chinese lunar programme.

The 120kg (260lb) Jade Rabbit rover can reportedly climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200m (660ft) per hour.

It will be interesting to see if the Chinese will share their discoveries publicly.

Its name – chosen in an online poll of 3.4 million voters – derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of the lunar goddess Chang’e.

How unusually 21st century / social media /democratic of them.

“China wants to go to the Moon for geostrategic reasons and domestic legitimacy,” Prof Joan Johnson-Freese, of the?US Naval War College?in Rhode Island, told the AFP news agency.

“With the US exploration moribund at best, that opens a window for China to be perceived as the global technology leader – though the US still has more, and more advanced, assets in space.”

The landing site is a flat volcanic plain, part of a larger feature known as Mare Imbrium that forms the right eye of the “Man in the Moon”.

The lander will operate there for a year, while the rover is expected to work for some three months.

After this, a mission to bring samples of lunar soil back to Earth is planned for 2017. And this may set the stage for further robotic missions, and – perhaps – a crewed lunar mission in the 2020s.

I’m looking forward to Labour and The Green Taliban seeking leave from the House to declare that if the lunar rover had been from any other country, it would be OK, but as they are Chinese…. ? also, mining. ?Seriously? ?And lastly, think what could happen if they were mining the moon, a piece broke off, and it landed on a pristine part of the West Coast?