Jade Rabbit Rover
Fly me to the Moon… China stakes claim to lunar surface after circulating new pictures taken by its Jade Rabbit rover
- President Xi Xinping made the comments while congratulating scientists
- Could be a self-aware spin on worldwide ubiquity of Chinese-made goods
- Ironically, even Jade Rabbit’s engineers admit their design is derivative
By Damien Gayle
China’s space agency today distributed fresh new pictures of the Moon’s surface from its lunar lander and rover.
The Jade Rabbit rover can be seen trundling across the pockmarked surface of Earth’s satellite in pictures released today by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The successful soft-landing of the Chang’e 3 lander in December made China the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the United States and Russia.
The country’s achievement comes just a decade after it first sent an astronaut into space, and has got the Chinese leadership on a patriotic high.
The mission is seen as a symbol of China’s rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party’s success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.
In a patriotic, and perhaps self-aware, spin on the ubiquity of produts ‘Made in China’, President Xi Jinping earlier this week called the landing ‘a real and genuine Chinese product.’
As he congratulated the scientists and engineers of the space programme at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Monday morning, he insisted: ‘The most fundamental point is that China’s space industry insists on self-reliant and independent innovation.’
But it’s a claim that’s been called into doubt by some scientists, who have suggested the design of the Chinese rover appears to borrow heavily from its Soviet and American predecessors.
Even some engineers involved in designing the vehicle have said their version is derivative.
‘There is no denying the similarities,’ said Professor Wen Guilin from Hunan University in Changsha after the rover was unveiled.
He admitted to the South China Morning Post that the Chinese rover ‘borrowed heavily from other countries, in particularly the United States.’
‘A lot of things have been drawn from the reliable and successful design of the [American] Mars rover,’ he told the Hong Kong-based paper.
Knock off or not, there’s no denying the ambition of the China’s Moon mission, which on December 14 achieved the first lunar soft landing in nearly four decades and aims at a manned mission by 2020.
As colour images showing the Chinese national flag on the rover were transmitted live to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the Chinese Communist Party branded the touchdown a ‘milestone’.
Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane’s Space Systems and Industry, said at the time: ‘It’s still a significant technological challenge to land on another world.
‘Especially somewhere like the moon, which doesn’t have an atmosphere so you can’t use parachutes or anything like that.
‘You have to use rocket motors for the descent and you have to make sure you go down at the right angle and the right rate of descent and you don’t end up in a crater on top of a large rock.’
Chang’e-3 adopted a variable thrust engine designed and made by Chinese scientists. Its thrust power ranges from 1,500 to 7,500 newtons, according to the country’s space agency.
The soft-landing was carried out 12 days after the probe blasted off on an enhanced Long March-3B carrier rocket.
The last soft-landing was carried out by the Soviet Union in 1976.
11 Jan, 2014
Jade Rabbit Rover
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