The Jade Rabbit has landed: China touches down robotic rover on moon

A computer-generated image of China's probe on the moon.

A computer-generated image of China’s probe on the moon.

Two weeks ago, China blasted off on its third ever moon mission. But the objective this time was all new – to land on the lunar surface. That dream has been realized tonight as China’s Chang’e 3 unmanned probe carefully set itself down for a landing on the moon.

State broadcaster CCTV showed images of jubilation at the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, from where the probe is being controlled:

China’s craft touched down in the Bay of Rainbows, a large plain of basaltic lava, at 9:12 p.m. Beijing time on Saturday night. (Update: The rover has now rolled out of the module. Below is an actual photograph of the rover).

China lunar rover starts exploring

It’s the first soft touchdown on the moon since an unmanned Russian mission in 1976.

A few hours after landing, the probe will deploy its precious cargo – a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates to Jade Rabbit. It’s named after Chinese folklore of a moon rabbit. The rover got that name after an online poll open to the public.

The probe and the Jade Rabbit rover are expected to snap photos of each other tomorrow (December 15).

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