China’s ‘Jade Rabbit’ lands on moon

Chang’e-3 is expected to carry out a soft landing on the moon at 13:00 GMT

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China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover vehicle drove onto the moon's surface on Sunday after the first soft landing on Earth's satellite in nearly four decades, marking a landmark advance in the country's space program.

China has become the third country to successfully complete a rover mission, following the U.S. and former Soviet Union. Following the touchdown, a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as “Jade Rabbit,” was deployed.


The rover Chang’e-3 was named after the Chinese legend of the moon.

The landing, expected to be carried out independently by the spacecraft, was described as the “most difficult” part of the mission by CAS in an earlier post on Chang’e-3’s Weibo page.

The landing craft uses sensors and 3D imaging to identify a flat surface. Thrusters are deployed 100 metres (330 feet) from the lunar surface to gently guide the craft into position.

Karl Bergquist, international relations administrator at the European Space Agency (ESA), who has worked with Chinese space officials on the Chang'e-3 mission, said the key challenge was to identify a flat location for the landing.

"I was told by Chinese space officials that the lander and rover are each equipped with a camera and that when the rover separates from the lander they will both take a picture of each other from distance which will then be sent back to Earth," he told AFP before the landing.

Jade Rabbit can climb slopes of up to 30 degrees and travel at 200 metres per hour, according to the Shanghai Aerospace Systems Engineering Research Institute, added the agency.

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