China's Jade Rabbit rover arrived at the Moon and made the first soft landing on the lunar surface since 1976. The first anniversary offers an opportunity to review China's plan for a human lunar landing in 10 years and for the establishment of a crewed lunar base.
The 140-kilogram, six-wheeled rover, part of the Chang'e 3 phase of the project, was sent to the Moon to study the lunar surface and mineral resources. It foundered in late January 2014, well short of concluding its three month mission. Famously, it sent out a mournful last message that it had run into some problem and knew that it "might not survive this Moon night." Delayed responses to controllers' commands raised hopes briefly, but the rover can't activate its wheels or solar panels. China has admitted it is disabled, but asserts it is alive and that the scientific equipment it carried, such as its telescope, is still beaming back useful data.
China appears to be at pains to reassure the world that Jade Rabbit's setbacks won't set back the timetable.
A prototype of the Chang'e 5, designed to bring lunar samples back to Earth, is under development. Any postponement of the projected 2015 launch date for Chang'e 4 can be taken as an indication that succeeding dates will be missed, throwing the 10-year target into doubt.
Date written/update: 2014-08-11