China’s first lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) successfully separated itself from the lander early this morning and rolled onto the moon’s surface amidst a cloud of lunar dust, hours after the Chang’e-3 probe soft landed on the moon and made China the third country in the world to accomplish such a rover mission.
The 140 kg six-wheeled rover touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m., leaving deep trace on the loose lunar soil. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent to the earth, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
After the separation, the rover and lander will take photos of each other and start their own scientific explorations.
The Chang’e-3 landed on the moon’s Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, in the northern hemisphere at 9:11 on Saturday night. China is now the third country in the world to carry out this mission after the US and former Soviet Union.
According to Chinese mythology, Yutu was the pet rabbit of lunar goddess Chang’e. The rover’s name was selected through an online poll that included participants from all over the world.
The last soft landing on the moon was 37 years ago, carried out by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24. The last manned mission was NASA’s Apollo 17, which left the moon’s surface on December 14, 1972.
Rev up your homemade moon buggies!
[Image via Xinhua//Gif via @Brownpau]