The ‘Bunny Girl’ on the Moon

In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts heard about a mythical goddess who lives on the moon with her rabbit companion.

On Monday, China launched a lunar mission—dubbed Chang’e 3, after a mythical Chinese goddess—which will drop off the country’s first moon rover, named Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit.”

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Speaking of goddesses and bunnies . . . during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, the astronauts heard about the legend of Chang’e and her furry companion during a morning news briefing with Houston. Here’s a clip, complete with Buzz Aldrin’s succinct reaction (the transcription is farther below):

Mission Control: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there’s one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.

Buzz Aldrin: Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.

You can listen to more conversations here and read the air-to-ground voice transcription spanning July 16-July 24, 1969, here. There are some priceless moments. (“Bunny girl” appears on page 179.)

For more on the myth of Chang’e, check out the Handbook of Chinese Mythology (page 86), by Lihui Yang and Deming An.

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About Julie Leibach

Julie Leibach is a freelance science journalist and the former managing editor of online content for Science Friday.