Beijing, Dec 16 — China hailed its Chang’e-3 lunar probe mission “a complete success” Sunday night, after its first moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, and lander took photos of each other on lunar surface, Xinhua reported.
A day after the country finished its first lunar soft landing, both the lander and moon rover were functioning well, said Pei Zhaoyu, spokesperson for China’s lunar probe programme.
Ma Xingrui, chief commander of the lunar programme, announced the success of Chang’e-3 mission at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre (BACC), where Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were present.
In a congratulatory message sent by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission, the success of Chang’e-3 mission was hailed as a “milestone” in the development of China’s space programmes.
While the moon rover Yutu has been designed to survey the moon’s geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months at a speed of 200 metres per hour, the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year.
The 140-kg rover separated from the lander and touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m. Sunday, several hours after Chang’e-3 lunar probe soft-landed on the moon’s surface at 9:11 p.m. Saturday.
Chang’e-3 landed on the moon’s Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the US and Soviet Union.
This is the world’s first soft-landing of a probe on the moon in nearly four decades. The last such soft-landing was carried out by the Soviet Union in 1976.
In ancient Chinese mythology, Yutu was the white pet rabbit of the lunar goddess Chang’e. The name for the rover was selected following an online poll that collected several million votes from people around the world.
The rover is a highly efficient robot controlled by the command centre from the earth. It will face challenges including temperature differences of more than 300 degrees Celsius on the moon.
Following the success of the Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2, respectively launched in 2007 and 2010, the Chang’e-3 lunar probe mission marks the full completion of the second phase of China’s lunar programme, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth.
After Chang’e-3, China’s lunar programme will enter a new stage of unmanned automatic sampling and return.
Wu Weiren, the lunar program’s chief designer, said China is likely to bring samples from the moon back to the Earth on an unmanned craft before 2020, paving the way for a manned mission.