The Jade Rabbit rover launched into space on Monday as part of China's first moon rover mission, highlighting the nation's ambitious space program.
The rover's name comes from Chinese mythology. The goddess of the moon, Chang'e, has a pet named Yutu that translates to "Jade Rabbit."
The mission blasted off around 1:30 a.m. local time courtesy of China's Long March-3B carrier rocket, the Agence France-Presse reported. One hour after the launch, the Jade Rabbit's
center's director Zhang Zhenzhong appeared before staff and declared the mission a "success" on China's state-run CCTV.
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"The Chang’e probe is on its way to the moon," Zhang Zhenzhong said during the live CCTV broadcast, UniverseToday.com reported
. "Of course, it’s a symbol of China’s national power and prowess."
China's probe will follow in the footsteps of the United States and former Soviet Union, which landed on the moon decades ago. The Jade Rabbit is expected to land in mid-December and will be tasked with exploring the moon's surface and searing for natural resources.
Designed to travel approximately 660 feet per hour, the Jade Rabbit can climb 30 degree slopes, according to the Shanghai Aerospace Systems Engineering Research Institute.
The Jade Rabbit is said to be China's first step toward eventually sending humans to the moon and establishing a permanent space station by 2020, the AFP noted.
China has sent 10 astronauts into space since 2003. The nation sent two unmanned probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010. At the end of its mission, the 2007 probe intentionally crashed into the lunar surface.
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