China's lunar rover separates from lander, 'Jade Rabbit' makes its mark on the moon
In this image taken by the on-board camera of the lunar probe Chang'e-3 and made off the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, China's first moon rover 'Jade Rabbit' touches the lunar surface Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Xinhua)
The Associated Press
Published Sunday, December 15, 2013 7:14AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 15, 2013 10:27PM EST
BEIJING -- China hailed its lunar probe mission a success after the country's first moon rover and the landing vehicle that carried it there took photos of each other on the surface, state media reported.
The six-wheeled rover moved to a spot about 9 metres north of the landing vehicle on Sunday night China time and the pair took photos for about a minute, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The colour images transmitted back to Earth showed the Chinese flag on the Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" rover, named after a mythological creature.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center to hear lunar program chief commander Ma Xingrui declare the Chang'e 3 mission a success, Xinhua reported.
In a congratulatory message, the Communist Party's central committee, State Council or China's Cabinet, and the Central Military Commission hailed the mission as a "milestone" in the development of China's space programs, a "new glory" in Chinese explorations and the "outstanding contribution" of China in mankind's peaceful use of space, Xinhua said.
The Chang'e 3 landed on a relatively flat part of the moon known as Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on Saturday evening, marking the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades. China is the third country to do that after the former Soviet Union and United States.
The lander and rover have now embarked on separate scientific explorations. The 140-kilogram rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface and look for natural resources for three months at a speed of 200 metres per hour. The landing vehicle will conduct scientific examinations for one year at the landing site.
Xinhua said the two will have more chances in the coming days to take photos of each other at different angles.
The Chang'e 3 mission is named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon and the Yutu rover, or "Jade Rabbit" in English, is the goddess' pet.
China's military-backed space program has made methodical progress in a relatively short time, although it lags far behind the United States and Russia in technology and experience.