China will launch its first ever moon rover mission on Monday, state media said, as it embarks on the latest stage in its ambitious space program.
A rocket carrying the vehicle, named “Jade Rabbit” in a nod to Chinese folklore, will blast off at 1:30 am local time.
“The Chang’e 3 is set to be launched for its moon mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on December 2,” state broadcaster CCTV said on its verified Twitter account on Saturday.
If successful, the launch will mark a major milestone in China’s space exploration programme, which ambitiously aims to create a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send someone to the moon.
But its technology currently lags behind the expertise of the United States and Russia.
China has previously sent two probes to orbit the moon, with controllers sending the first of them crashing into the lunar surface at the end of its mission.
Early in November, Beijing offered a rare glimpse into its secretive space program when it put a model of its six-wheeled moon rover on public display. The rover was later named ‘Yutu’, or jade rabbit, following an online poll.
The name derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a white rabbit that lives on the moon as the pet of Chang’e, a lunar goddess who swallowed an immortality pill.