China is set to become the third country in the history to land a rover on the Moon next month, marking the next step in the country’s ambitious space programme.
The Chang’e 3 spacecraft, carrying a small rover named Yutu, will be launched to Moon in early December, Chinese officials announced on Tuesday.
"Chang'e 3's mission requires mastering many key technologies. The technical difficulties and the risks involved in carrying out the mission will be high," Wu Zhijian, spokesman of the Chinese space agency told during a news conference, broadcasted live on China's state television.
"In taking on the mission to land on the Moon, Chang'e 3 will help China fulfil its lunar exploration dream, its space dream and the Chinese dream," Wu said.
Scientists will attempt to land the probe softly to allow the rover to drive around the Moon and explore its surface. During the mission, Chinese scientists will also test deep space communication technologies.
In a public vote, it was decided the lunar rover will be named Yutu, meaning Jade Rabbit, a figure from Chinese mythology.
China has already photographed the surface of the Moon during its previous missions to prepare for the landing, said a spokesman for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.
China has previously sent two orbiters to lunar orbit. In 2007, Chnag’e 1, named after the Chinese Moon goddess, captured a series of images of the lunar surface that enabled Chinese scientists to create the most accurate and highest resolution 3D map of the lunar surface up-to-date.
Another mission, Chang’e 2 was launched in 2010.
China has been investing heavily into its space programme in recent years, in a bid to join the exclusive club of space super-powers. Earlier this year, it has successfully concluded its second manned mission to low Earth orbit and plans have been discussed to send the first Chinese astronauts to the Moon by 2020.
Despite some concerns in the international community, China claims its space programme is being developed with solely peaceful purposes in mind.
China says the advancements in technology will be available to other nations, especially developing ones, and has also suggested it might offer to train astronauts from other countries.