Science, Tech & Environment

China successfully puts a rabbit on the moon

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Credit: Reuters

A photograph taken on a giant screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing shows an animated image of the Chang'e-3 lunar probe landing onto the surface of the moon, December 14, 2013.

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It takes money. It takes time. There are plenty of problems to deal with on the earth. That's true all across the world, and certainly true China in China too.

But on Saturday, China put a rabbit on the moon. Not a real rabbit of course, but Jade Rabbit, a robotic rover. It's the first time since 1976 that any one has completed such a feat. China now joins the US and former Soviet Union as the only other countries to stick a landing on the moon.

Chinese President Xi Jinping says the communist country wants to establish itself as a space power. Dean Cheng, an avowed space geek who also works for the Heritage Foundation, covering China's military and space programs, says the moon landing increases the stature of the communist government.

"Space fits what the Chinese term 'comprehensive national power, which is how you rate a nation's capabilities," he says. "It's not just your military, it's not just your economy. It's also your level of science and technology, industrial development, diplomatic respect. Space contributes to all of that."

And while it doesn't dominate the headlines, space and the moon still have the power to captivate.

The #jaderabbit appeared on Twitter:

Astronaut Mark Kelly chimed in with a dare:

And of course, this being the Internet, there were important hypotheticals:

Cheng says this is just one small step for the Chinese. They have several more missions to the moon in the works. He says it's a signal that China is in the space game for the long haul. 

"I don't think that if the Chinese put a man on the moon, that they'll put five or six missions up and just stop," he says.

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