China’s space agency has released the first pictures of the landing on the moon of the lunar probe Chang’e 3 and its rover, Jade Rabbit.
Chang’e 3 performed the first soft moon landing since 1976, when the Russians were the last to visit.
The 140-kilo rover will spend three months surveying the area’s surface substances and geological structure, and looking for natural resources. The lander will take samples for a year at the place where it touched down in the Bay of Rainbows, an area unexplored by either the USA or Russia.
It was all smiles in ground control, where President Li Jinping was on hand for congratulations, and to check that China was on course to fulfil his promise of becoming a major space power.
Once everything had checked out, the Chinese scientists deployed the rover, and Jade Rabbit moved some nine metres away, to take colour photos of the probe. This offered Chinese viewers back home their first-ever glimpse of their nation’s red and golden-starred flag on an extraterrestrial body.