China’s surging space program will embark on its most ambitious robotic mission yet on Monday as it launches the Chang’e-3 mission to the moon. The spacecraft will land and deploy a six-wheel rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) that will explore the surface for three months.
The launch aboard a Long March-3B rocket from Xichang is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 a.m. local time (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. EST). The moon landing — the first by any country since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976 — is scheduled for mid-December. Only the United States and Soviet Union have soft landed spacecraft on the lunar surface.
Chang’e is named for the Chinese goddess of the moon. Yutu is the jade rabbit kept by the goddess.