China: Moon Rover Yutu, Or ‘Jade Rabbit,’ To Launch Soon With Chang’e Lunar Probe

China’s moon rover called the Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, is readying to launch on the Chang’e-3 lunar probe.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Mars rover Curiosity celebrated one year on the red planet this fall. And the rover will eventually be joined by robot snakes exploring Mars. (Oh, and there’s no life on Mars.)

The Yutu moon rover weighs about 310 pounds and is powered by two solar panels. The mission was preceded by two moon orbiter missions in 2007 and 2010. The Chinese say more than “80 percent of the technology adopted in the mission is new, and with new technology and products carrying out new tasks, there are certainly great risks.” There’s even a possibility that China’s moon rover could get stuck exiting the Chang’e.

Besides Russia and the United States, China’s moon rover will make them the third country to land any man-made object on the lunar surface. The names of Yutu of Chang’e was voted upon by the Chinese and competed against 190,000 other ideas. But if you know Chinese folklore these names make perfect sense. Chang’e was a goddess who accidentally swallowed an immortality pill and flew to the Moon, with only a rabbit to keep her company. Hence the name Yutu, or Jade Rabbit.

Back in 1969, the crew of the Apollo 11 were even asked to look out for Chang’e and her bunny. Astronaut Michael Collins’ response? “We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”

Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s moon rover program, says the name reflects the purpose of the mission:

“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.”

But according to Jeff Plescia, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, China’s moon rover will actually cause problems for the United States:

“The arrival of the Chang’e 3 spacecraft into lunar orbit and then its descent to the surface will result in a significant contamination of the lunar exosphere by the propellant.”

This means NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) will have difficulty completing its mission.

But the Chinese says that China’s moon rover shouldn’t be viewed by the western world as another Sputnik. They have no desire to start another space race:

“In fact, we have no desire to race with any country. China has its own space program. We are realizing our own plans step by step. Our goal is to use space peacefully. It is also the consensus of the world. Human beings need to make use of space resources to support sustainable development.”

Regardless of intentions, China’s moon rover is launching soon on Sunday and estimated to land on the lunar “Sea of Rainbows” around December 14. After touching down on Sinus Iridum, the six-wheeled moon rover will then spend about three months exploring the area. But the best part is that since it’s relatively close, unlike Mars, we’ll be able to watch from Earth using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.