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Why China’s Internet Bigshots Lined Up to Support Its Space Program

The Long March 2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 10 capsule blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Jiuquan in June.

The Long March 2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 10 capsule blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Jiuquan in June. // Andy Wong/AP

On Dec. 1 China launched its first probe to land on and explore the moon’s surface. If successful, China will become the third country, after the US and the former Soviet Union, to have completed a “soft landing” on the moon—one in which the spacecraft remains intact and operational. (It would be the world’s first such landing since 1976.)

China’s space program is almost as much for prestige among its own citizens as it is for the country’s international image. Specifically, the launch and China’s space program more generally appears to be part of president Xi Jinping’s mantra of promoting the “Chinese dream.” Zhang Zhenzhong, director of China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center told reporters, ”We will strive for our space dream as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.”

State television network CCTV aired several hours of coverage ahead of the launch. The moon rover is named the “Jade Rabbit,” a name chosen from an online public poll, after a pet rabbit in Chinese folklore. (Here are photos of the gold-colored buggy as well as a video of the launch.).

One way to promote the probe, and China’s ambitious space program more broadly, is to ask celebrities to attend the event. And here, China scored the most-successful internet entrepreneurs in the country.

Read the full story at Quartz.

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