China Launches 1st Moon Rover Mission
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – China launched its first moon rover mission early Monday, state TV showed, the latest step in an ambitious space programme seen as a symbol of its rising global stature.
The Chang'e-3 rocket carrying the Jade Rabbit rover blasted off around 1:30 am (Sunday 1730 GMT), the CCTV official broadcaster showed in live footage from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country's southwest.
As it shot into the dark sky, mission observers could be heard reporting at regular intervals that things were proceeding "normally".
Within an hour the director of the launch centre Zhang Zhenzhong appeared before staff and declared the mission a "success", CCTV showed, AFP reported.
The probe is due to land on the moon in mid-December to explore its surface and look for natural resources. It is the world's third lunar rover mission following the United States and former Soviet Union decades earlier.
Chief probe designer Sun Zezhou hailed the mission as having "great scientific and economic significance", according to the Xinhua state news agency.
"The mission has contributed to the development of a number of space technologies and some of them can be applied in civilian sector," it paraphrased Sun as saying.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its growing international status and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.