China has launched its first robotic expedition to the Moon's surface, the latest step in an ambitious space program seen to reflect the country's rising global stature.
The Chang'e-3 lunar probe, which includes the "Jade Rabbit" rover buggy, blasted off early Monday morning (1730 GMT Sunday) on board an enhanced carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's southwestern Sichuan province.
Chinese state television showed a live broadcast of the rocket lifting off.
The probe is due to land on the Moon in mid-December to explore its surface and look for natural resources. It is the world's third lunar rover mission following ones from the United States and former Soviet Union decades earlier.
"Hard" crash landings are easier, and China crashed a craft into the Moon in 2009. The last soft landing on the Moon by any country was by the Soviet Union in 1976.
In 2007, China launched its first Moon orbiter, the Chang'e-1 - named after a lunar goddess - which took images of the surface and analyzed the distribution of elements.
The lunar buggy was named the Jade Rabbit, or "Yutu," in a public vote, a folkloric reference to the goddess's pet.
President Xi Jinping has said he wants China to establish itself as a space superpower, and the mission has inspired widespread pride in China's growing technological prowess.
Online reactions to the launch from the Chinese public were mixed, ranging from expressions of pride of country to criticism that the accomplishment was done without the consent of the people and did nothing to help clothe and feed the population.
Beijing aims to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send someone to the Moon.
Reaction from Weibo microblog site
：Salute to Chang'e. Salute to "Jade Rabbit". Salute to Chinese space engineers. Salute to China Dream.
：It is an exciting news that China successfully launched Chang'e 3. I still remember the launch of China's first satellite Dongfanghong. It has been fifty years and China has been greatly transformed. I am proud of my country.
：The U.S. has sent two men to the moon in 1969. We have a long way to go.
美国69年，已经载人登月了，我们落后了很多。 【"玉兔"月球车将永留月球】 http://t.cn/8kG1bbp
The Jade Rabbit was launched into space and China's deep-sea submersible, the Jiaolong has plumbed the depths of the sea. China has donated billions in aid to Africa, North Korea, Vietnam and Brunei. But did you do any of this with the consent of the people? What does the launch of a moon rover or deep-sea submersible accomplish? Does it make China a more responsible country? Does it help to cloth and feed its people or make its citizens more healthy?.....
：China's successful launch of Chang'e and "Jade Rabbit" makes me confident that China is capable of making best-quality milk powder and safest food.
：I don't care about Chang'e 3, 2 or 1. What I care about is whether I can afford to go to doctor when I am sick.