Sunday, December 01, 2013
At long last, the Chang'e 3 probe with the rover now named Jade Rabbit（玉兔号, yùtùhào, the last character shows we're talking about a ship or probe or what have you) will launch for the first mission to reach the moon's surface (besides probes demolishing on impact) since 1976, three years before I was even born. Unless you are soon approaching or have passed 40, then you have never lived in a world where we have had something or someone on the surface of the moon either.
It will of course first have to have a sucessful launch, trip to the moon, and landing. I'm reasonably confident that this mission will succeed given the relative ease of doing things around and on the moon which orits us and nobody else, and the fact that Chang'e 2 turned out to be such a success, not just surveying the moon but then going off to hang out at a LaGrange point and then flying by an asteroid as well, both of which were not in the original mission plan.
Also note how long it took China to officially announce the launch date of this probe. The simplicity of lunar missions is one of the reasons for this as well, since one does not have to wait for a launch window for a lunar mission. For anything else there is a launch window to make, and if it missed then the mission gets delayed by at least a year and up to two and a half. This ability to only launch a mission when it is good and ready instead of hurriedly trying to make a launch window is another reason why I'm reasonably confident about this one.
One other interesting fact: LADEE is currently orbiting the moon to study the lunar exosphere and the dust within it, and apparently the landing of the probe could disturb this...or if communication between agencies is good then it will aid it as it compares the environment before, during, and after landing.