A rocket blasted off from its base in southwest China early Monday carrying the country's first-ever robotic lunar rover. It is China's most ambitious space mission to date, and part of the ruling Communist party's narrative of national power and scientific mastery.
The Chang'e-3 probe is carrying a lunar rover called the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, named after the mythical pet of Chang'e, the Moon Goddess. The probe and rover were launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province.
The Chang'e-3 three-month mission is to land on the moon, rove around and collect soil samples. If all goes smoothly, China will become only the third country after the US and former Soviet Union to put a rover on the moon.
"The probe has already entered the designated orbit," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted launch center director Zhang Zhenzhong as saying, as he declared the launch a success to an applauding audience.