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Emily LakdawallaOctober 28, 2013

Chang'e 3 update: Rocket shipped to launch site; ten possible rover names announced

China's Chang'e 3 lunar soft lander and rover are proceeding toward a planned December launch. The Long March-3B rocket departed Beijing for the Xichang launch facility yesterday, and is expected to arrive November 1. "All tests on the Chang'e-3 moon probe, which has been in Xichang since Sept. 12, are going on smoothly," the news article says, paraphrasing a statement from the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Here's a video showing the rocket being lifted onto its train car and departing Beijing (in Chinese). I thank the members of nasaspaceflight.com for posting links to these useful videos.

And here's a EuroNews video with an overview of the mission. There are a couple of head-scratching lines in the voice-over ("scientists have ruled out the use of parachutes on the Moon" -- um, yeah, I don't think you need a scientist to rule out the use of parachutes in a vacuum), but the graphics are cool.

In other news, the naming contest for the Chang'e 3 rover has produced ten possible names. You can vote for your choice online (if you can read Mandarin!) at this website; voting closes October 31, and will produce three finalists. Here's the list of names, with translations provided by Wang Chun on unmannedspaceflight.com:

According to a Xinhua wire article, this is an ordered list, with "Yutu" being the most popular suggestion. The article states that "Yutu is a white pet rabbit accompanying the goddess Chang'e on the moon in a popular ancient Chinese myth." The list of names was generated on Saturday after a 14-member jury considered 190,000 entries (wow!) on Saturday.

Chang'e 3 lunar lander and rover

Chang'e 3 lunar lander and rover

Read more: mission status, Chang'E program

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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