Among the folklores centred around the moon, the moon rabbit or the hare is one of the popular ones. Here we try to explore the tales behind the moon rabbit and its scientific version.

The moon rabbit hails from the East Asian Folklore popular in China, Japan and Korean. Then it spread to Asian countries including India and is still popular while introducing little kids to the shining satellite in the rural areas.  

According to the folklore in China, the rabbit is the companion of the Goddess Chang-E. The rabbit is supposed to pound medicines with various ingredients for the immortals. The tale also states that Chang-E accidentally took way too many pills of immortality and floated to the moon.

In the Japanese and Korean folklore, the moon rabbit was pursuing studies in Buddhism along with a fox and a monkey. When the Emperor of Heavens gave them a test  to evaluate their faith and asked them to get him some food, the three went in different directions. The fox brought a fish, monkey came back with a fruit. But the rabbit couldn't find anything. As it couldn't return empty handed, it jumped into fire and offered its own meat as food. Impressed by this, the Emperor of Heavens made the rabbit guardian of the moon.

Interestingly, the answer for what does the rabbit pound in its mortar is different in the three countries. In Chinese tales, the rabbit is found pounding herbal medicines for Chang-E. In Japanese stories, the rabbit pounds mochi powder and the Koreans believe that the rabbit pounds rice to make rice cakes.

In fact, the Chinese lunar rover, Yutu, landed on the moon on December 14 in 2013 and it was named after the Jade Rabbit, following an online poll.

Though rabbit on Moon was termed as a myth long back, it was scientifically busted when Apollo 11 reached the moon in 1969.

Interestingly, a conversation between NASA mission control in Houston and Michael Collins (the astronaut who remained in the lunar orbiter) went viral.

The conversations goes:  

Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, everyone is asking you to watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-E 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.

Michael Collins: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.

Now, Chandrayaan-2 is all set to reach the moon, where no one has landed yet. Chandrayaan-2's Vikram Lander will make a soft landing on the surface of the moon in the early hours of September 7 between 1.30 am and 2.30 am. Pragyaan Rover housed inside the Vikram Lander will roll out between 5.30 am and 6.30 am.