It’s been almost four decades since the Moon received a spacecraft visitor (in one piece). China’s first lunar landing mission is set to end the drought.
With the launch of the “Chang’e-3” lunar probe Monday morning local time from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China looks to become the third country to land a spacecraft on the Moon. The last lunar visitor was launched by the former Soviet Union in 1976.
If all goes as planned, the lunar rover named “Jade Rabbit,” will land on the Moon’s surface in mid-December. The destination is the Moon’s Bay of Rainbows, where experiments will be done on the area’s field of basaltic lava, reports Mother Jones. The lunar landing is the second part of China’s 3-step Moon program, which first involved sending probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010.
If all goes well with Chang’e-3’s mission, the final stage will return lunar samples, and pave the way for China to send a manned mission to Earth’s satellite in the future.