December 15, 2013
China reported success with its Jade Rabbit rover, in the first lunar soft landing in nearly 40 years.
The Yutu, as it is also known, rolled onto the surface of the Moon a few hours after the Chang'e-3 probe landed, making China the third nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon and the first since the Soviet Union, in 1976. The spacecraft left Earth two weeks ago.
The landing site was Sinus Iridum ("Bay of Rainbows"), the Xinhua news service reported. The wide plain is often bathed in sunlight and accommodates easy remote communications with Earth-bound systems. No previous lunar mission has explored the site.
The Chinese Government said that the rover and the lander took photos of each other and transmitted those back to Earth. President Xi Jinping, who was in the Beijing Aerospace Control Center when the transmissions arrived, had hearty congratulations for the space program.
China sent an astronaut in space a decade ago and plans a human mission to the Moon, with a permanent space station in orbit by 2020.
A headline in the Hong Kong Sunday Morning Post read "One Giant Leap for China," echoing the words of American Neil Armstrong as he touched down on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.
Chinese space officials said that the rover mission was expected to last three months. The rover, which can travel nearly 125 miles an hour and climb slopes of up to 30 degrees, will seek out sources of titanium, uranium, and other minerals and also explore methods of generating solar power.