China launched the nation’s space program’s first ever extraterrestrial landing craft into orbit Monday, set to land on the moon in a few days. The launch of the Chang’e-3 lunar probe, equipped with the Yutu or "Jade Rabbit" moon rover, was watched by Chinese across the world yesterday as many celebrated the milestone.
However, not everyone is particularly happy with the launch. Photos on have circulated online of what people are claiming to be debris from the moon mission launch after that pieces of the rocket reportedly fell through a home in Shaoyang, Suining County, a city in central Chinese province of Hunan. The photos were uploaded onto popular Chinese micro-blog platform Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, but still have not been independently verified as real or coming from the Chang’e-3 rocket. Debris, also allegedly from the launch, was also found in forest areas of Suichuan County, located in neighboring central Chinese Jiangxi province.
According to a report by AFP, citing local news source Xiaoxiang Morning Post, metal from the rocket that carried the lunar rovwer out of the atmosphere came crashing down, puncturing the roofs of rural barns in a small village. Officials reportedly have given the affected villagers compensation for their damaged property, reportedly around 5,000-10,000 yuan ($800 to 1,600).
According to the AFP, Suining County is aware of the hazards of being located near the Xicheng satellite launch center in Sichuan province. Since the early days of China’s space program in the 1990s, Suining has been struck by falling rocket parts and debris on almost 20 different occasions.
If successful, China will be the third country, after the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, to soft-land on the moon. Though still well behind the space program of the U.S., China is quickly catching up. As China’s space program continues to develop quickly, it is likely local residents should brace for potentially more falling space equipment. According to the Guardian, Chinese scientists have discussed the possibility of sending the first manned mission to the moon sometime after the year 2020.