Beijing — China’s Jade Rabbit rover drove onto the moon’s surface on Sunday after being deployed successfully from the unmanned spacecraft Chang’e-3, which yesterday made the first soft landing on the lunar surface in nearly four decades.
“One Giant Leap for China,” said the headline from Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post, in reference to the words of American astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969 when he became the first human to step on the moon.
The Jade Rabbit (‘Yutu’ in Chinese) is a six-wheeled moon rover with at least four cameras and two mechanical legs capable of digging up soil samples 30 meters deep.
The rover’s name, which was decided by a public online poll, comes from an ancient Chinese myth about the pet white rabbit of the goddess Chang’e, who lives on the moon.
The rover and the space probe are expected to take pictures of each other on Sunday, said Chinese state news media.
China became the third country to complete a lunar rover mission, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The landing was the first of its kind since a 1976 mission by the Soviet Union, which came four years after the United States’ Apollo 17 manned mission, which was the last time humans stepped onto the moon.
The Jade Rabbit mission is viewed as a symbol of China’s rise on the global stage and its technological advancement, and in China is hailed by the Communist Party as evidence of its success in turning around the fortunes of the once-impoverished country.
For at least three months, the solar-powered rover will study the lunar crust, as well as soil and rocks, according to reports.
The rover is a slow-moving vehicle that carries an optical telescope for astronomical observations and an ultraviolet camera to monitor the affects of solar activity on the various layers of Earth’s atmosphere, said a statement by China’s information technology.
The ambitious Chinese space program plans to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send a human to the moon.