2 Dec 2013

Lunar rover mission launched by China

7:53 am on 2 December 2013

China has launched its first lunar rover mission.

The Chang'e-3 mission blasted off from Xichang in the south at 1.30am on Monday local time. It was carrying a landing module and a six-wheeled robotic rover called Yutu (Jade Rabbit).

The mission should land in the Moon's northern hemisphere in mid-December.

Chinese state TV carried live pictures of the launch of the Long March 3B rocket carrying the lunar probe.

The rover's name was chosen in an online poll of 3.4 million voters. The BBC reports it derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of the lunar goddess Chang'e.

If successful, the mission will be a milestone in China's long-term space exploration programme, which includes establishing a permanent space station in Earth orbit.