China has landed its first robotic lander on the moon. This is a historic lunar mission that makes the country only the third nation to make a soft-landing on Moon.
“This is a great day for lunar science and exploration, with the first successful soft landing on the surface of the Moon since the Soviet Union did it in 1976,” said Clive Neal, a leading lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
Image: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
China’s Chang’e 3 moon lander and its Yutu rover, controlled from Beijing, touched down on the moon Saturday (Dec. 14) at about 8:11 a.m. EST (1311 GMT). It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years. The one before this was the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 sample-return mission.
“From the widest lens, the resurgence of multi-national interest in the moon is an important signal that the moon is not an artifact of history … but a new world that’s important to our future,” said Bob Richards, co-founder of Moon Express, the private U.S. entrepreneurial group working on its own lunar lander system.
The Yutu means Jade Rabbit, the rover is named after the pet rabbit that travels with the goddess Chang’e to the moon in Chinese legends. The six-wheeled rover is a solar-powered vehicle equipped with cameras, a robotic arm tipped with science gear and a radar system attached to its underbelly.