China continues to make progress in it’s quest to have an eventual manned mission to the moon with the launch of the Long March 3B rocket rocket carrying the Yutu rover weighing nearly 310 lbs (140 kilograms). This will be the first time China has attempted a landing on another planetary body. China announced in August 2013 that it will launch a rover to the moon by the end of 2013.
The 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.
If the mission goes as planned it will land on December 14th. The Rocket and lander are using new technology which adds a good deal of risk to the mission. “More than 80 percent of the technology adopted in the mission is new, and with new technology and products carrying out new tasks, there are certainly great risks,” said Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s lunar program, in China Daily. “It could be a trying process for the rover to move down the lander,” he said. The target for landing is Sinus Iridum, known as the Bay of Rainbows, a plain of basaltic lava on the moon.