Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”), China's rover-like robot was soft-landed on the moon earlier this month. China's plans to become a global leader in robotics and space exploration are just beginning to be seen.
Yutu is a 6-wheeled rover. It has 4 cameras and 2 digging arms for sampling of lunar soil and dust, and can travel at 1/8 of a mile per hour. During it’s 3-month exploration, it will search for natural resources and rare elements such as titanium and uranium.
The Sunday Times (UK) said: “China conducts about 18 launches a year and sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003. In its most recent manned space mission in June, three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory. Their mission was part of Beijing's quest to open a permanent space station in Earth's orbit within the next decade.”
On the non-military/space frontier, China’s 12th 5-Year Plan targeted robotics as a growth industry necessary for China’s development. It expects a compound growth rate of 25%, said Wang Weiming, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The ministry has set up incentives and 5 geographical areas for Chinese companies to develop (and improve the quality of) their robot products and capabilities. The ambitious plan includes a goal of 30% to be produced with homegrown technologies, Wang said. In addition to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, authorities in Liaoning province are constructing a robot industrial complex in which they expect revenues of $8 billion for robots and other automation equipment by 2017.
A quick look at all the ongoing research projects at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shenyang Institute of Automation shows their interest in space, search and rescue, 3D bio-printing, eldercare robots and a variety of other up-and-coming robotic endeavors.