China announced that it will launch a rover to the moon by the end of 2013. A six-wheeled lunar vehicle has been under development since 2002 at the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute, where a specialized testing laboratory has been outfitted to replicate the lunar surface.This will be the first time a soft landing has been attempted on the moon by China.The lander will use variable thrusters to make a vertical landing on the surface near the Moon’s equatorial region.
Originally the mission was scheduled to land in 2011. “Chang’e-3 has officially entered its launch implementation stage following its research and construction period,” Xinhua reported. The 1.5m (5ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface.
China plans to send a second mission which would return of lunar samples in another five years. Meanwhile the U.S. plans to launch the LADEE mission to the moon this Friday. It will be placed in lunar orbit and study the tenuous atmosphere and dust around the moon. Manned missions to the moon would be sent no earlier than 2030 when the SLS rocket is completed. China intends to send men to the moon in the 2025-2030 time frame.