ONE GIANT HOP

Meet China’s Jade Rabbit, the peace-loving moon rover

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

China is sending a gold-colored buggy named the “Jade Rabbit” to the moon next month. If successful, it will be the country’s first real lunar landing, and the unmanned probe’s mission includes taking soil samples and readings of distant stars. More importantly, though, the vehicle is meant as a sign of the scale and nature of China’s space ambitions.

Security experts say the country’s lunar exploration program could mean a future of Chinese dominance over the moon’s resources, which include water and helium-3, potentially a source of fuel for fusion energy. China is going after deep space exploration at a time when other world powers have abandoned the space race because of budget restraints or shifting priorities. Only a decade ago, China sent its first astronaut into space and since then has launched four more manned missions. The lunar probe is the first step in eventually sending a manned mission to the moon. By 2020, China plans to build a permanently staffed space station of its own.

When officials chose the name of the new moon rover from votes in an online poll, they must have been aware of these international concerns. Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, takes its name from Chinese folklore, and evokes a sense of playfulness or innocence. It’s a name that officials likely hope will re-emphasize Chinese claims that there are no military or other motives behind the country’s space program. Deputy commander-in-chief of the country’s lunar program, Li Benzheng said, “Yutu is a symbol of kindness, purity and agility, and is identical to the moon rover in both outlook and connotation. Yutu also reflects China’s peaceful use of space.”

A rocket will carry the 300 lb. Jade Rabbit into space in early December, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said.

Visitors take pictures of a prototype model of a lunar rover at the 15th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, November 5, 2013. China will land its first probe on the moon in early December which will deploy a buggy to explore its surface, an official said on November 26, marking a major milestone in the country's space ambitions. Picture taken November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX15TCN
The first Chinese moon rover that will land on the moon was displayed at an industry fair in Shanghai earlier this month. (Reuters)
BEIJING,CHINA - SEPTEMBER 25:Chinese scientists described the country's first moon rover on Wednesday and invited the global public to come up with a name for it in Beijing,China on Wednesday Sep 25,2013.(Photo by TPG/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
Researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology check a prototype lunar rover in Shanghai April 23, 2008. The rover, which the academy hopes will be chosen for China's first moon landing in 2013, is designed to take three-dimensional images, transmit real-time motion pictures and dig and analyse soil samples, Xinhua News Agency said. Picture taken April 23, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA).  CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. - RTR1ZTTG
Researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology check a prototype lunar rover in 2008. (Reuters)
A researcher from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology checks a prototype lunar rover in Shanghai April 23, 2008. The rover, which the academy hopes will be chosen for China's first moon landing in 2013, is designed to take three-dimensional images, transmit real-time motion pictures and dig and analyse soil samples, Xinhua News Agency said. Picture taken April 23, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA).  CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. - RTR1ZTTJ
​A prototype of China’s first lunar rover that will land on the moon sometime in December. (Reuters)
BEIJING,CHINA - SEPTEMBER 25:Chinese scientists described the country's first moon rover on Wednesday and invited the global public to come up with a name for it in Beijing,China on Wednesday Sep 25,2013.Zhao Xiaojin,director of the aerospace department of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation,talks to media in the press conference in Beijing.(Photo by TPG/Getty Images)
A scientist describes the moon rover in September. (Getty Images)
A China-made lunar rover makes its debut during an exchange on space technology between China and the United Kingdom in Shanghai March 31, 2007. The host and participating experts showed the key technologies of the remote-controlled moon machine, which can climb slopes and overcome barriers, China Daily reported. Picture taken March 31, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA) CHINA OUT - RTR1O7JV
Scientists from the UK observe a prototype of the lunar rover in 2007. (Reuters)
Visitors look at a model of a lunar rover (L) driving out from a landing platform, at the 15th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, November 5, 2013. China will land its first probe on the moon in early December which will deploy a buggy to explore its surface, an official said on November 26, marking a major milestone in the country's space ambitions. Picture taken November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX15TCO
(Reuters)
A worshipper touches a relief of a rabbit at the Bai Yun Guan (White Cloud Temple), ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing Juanuary 28, 2011. The Lunar New Year begins on February 3 and marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese characters read, "Holy rabbit flying to the moon, symbols auspiciousness and happiness". REUTERS/Christina Hu (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTXX6C0
In Chinese folklore, an empress named Chang’e swallows a pill that gives her immortal life and thus prevents her selfish, greedy husband from staying in power. Chang’e flies to the moon with her pet rabbit, where she lives forever as the moon goddess. The message below this relief of a rabbit on a temple in Beijing says “Holy rabbit flying to the moon, symbolizes luck and happiness”. (Reuters/Christina Hu)
home our picks popular latest obsessions search