Op-Ed: China lands on the moon

Posted Dec 15, 2013 by Paul Wallis
China’s Chang’e 3 lander has arrived on the moon, with the Jade Rabbit rover due for deployment. This makes China the third nation to land on the moon, and the first physical exploration since the glory days of the Apollo Program.
A screengrab shows China s first moon rover  Yutu  or Jade Rabbit  separating from Chang e-3 moon la...
A screengrab shows China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separating from Chang'e-3 moon lander early Dec. 15, 2013. The six-wheeled rover separated from the lander early on Sunday, several hours after the Chang'e-3 probe soft-landed on the lunar surface
Via Xinhua
Xinhua couldn’t resist getting a bit sentimental:
For an ancient civilization like China, landing on the moon embodies another meaning. The moon, a main source for inspiration, is one of the most important themes in Chinese literature and ancient Chinese myths, including that about Chang'e, a lady who took her pet "Yutu" to fly toward the moon, where she became a goddess.
"Though people have discovered that the moon is bleached and desolate, it doesn't change its splendid role in Chinese traditional culture," said Zhang Yiwu, a professor with Peking University.
"Apart from scientific exploration, the lunar probe is a response to China's traditional culture and imagination. China's lunar program will proceed with the beautiful legends," Zhang said.
The space flight was a bit different to US and USSR landings, however. Chang’e was designed to avoid obstacles, finding a good place to land. Chang’e is a sort of hybrid of a moon lander and Mars rover, a versatile combination of capabilities.
There’s not a lot of information about the lander or the rover’s mission at this point. Expect a deluge of information and interest when the rover’s had time to go for a drive around the landing site.
Chang’e 3 is only the start. Chang’e 5, scheduled for 2015, is designed to return to Earth, perhaps with the first lunar samples taken for over 40 years.
China may have some very practical reasons beyond prestige for its moon program, as Space Daily reports:
The mission is seen as a symbol of China's rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.
The potential to extract the moon's resources has been touted as a key reason behind Beijing's space programme, with the moon believed to hold uranium, titanium, and other mineral resources, as well as offering the possibility of solar power generation.
Note the political jingle. Who cares? Be that as it might, China is boldly going where the US and Russia should have kept going 40 years ago. Maybe the Moon Goddess and the Jade Rabbit are better program managers?
Or maybe they have more guts than the collection of worthless bureaucrats and political bean counters which have allowed Western space exploration to turn into a charity-scale exercise? The payoff could be very apt, particularly financially. Moon chemistry forms elements which aren’t found on Earth. These elements could be worth infinitely more than the penny pinched billions taken out of US space exploration.
The artist s illustration of Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover on the surface of the moon
The artist's illustration of Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover on the surface of the moon