After USA and the Soviet Union, China will be the third nation in the world travelling to the Moon with their space program, and they will probably land there with the astronauts as well in the long term. At the moment, an unmanned spaceship »Chang’e-3« (moon fairy) is on its way to the Moon since 1st December 2013, planning to land in the Mare Ibrium on 14th December and supposed to transport a rover for research purposes of the Moon’s surface. The vehicle is called »Yutu« (jade rabbit).
The lunar space programs in den 60’s and 70’s, were among the most ambitious, technically most sophisticated and most expensive projects worldwide. The then superpowers USA and Soviet Union kept up a fierce competition, which was decided in favor of America with the moon landing of the Apollo 11 mission and Neil Armstrong. Consequently, it became more quiet as lunar explorations were conducted more and more from Earth via the constantly improving telescopes and via probes (unmanned flying objects in space), like for example the probes GRAIL or LADEE. In addition, Mars presented a new, obvious and more spectacular aim and the focus of attention turned during the course of the years.
China has ambitious plans. Not only the exploration of the Moon, but also the construction of a large space station in the Earth’s orbit, comparable with the International Space Station ISS, which will only be in operation until 2020.
So, we are excited about what images will the »jade rabbit« send us from the Moon. The hare on the Moon stands for virtues of compassion and grace of charity in China, which surely is a good omen. We certainly send our best wishes to a great success for this mission – may the exercise succeed!