China’s lunar rover lands on moon

December 15, 2013 - 10:37:15 am
BEIJING: China yesterday carried out the first soft landing on the moon since 1976, joining the United States and former Soviet Union in accomplishing the feat in a major step for Beijing’s ambitious space programme.

The emerging superpower is also set to become the third country to complete a lunar rover mission when it deploys its Yutu, or Jade Rabbit vehicle.

Scientists burst into applause as a computer generated image representing the spacecraft, named Chang’e-3, was seen landing on the moon’s surface via screens at a Beijing control centre, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television (CCTV) showed.

“Chang’e-3 has successfully carried out a soft-landing on the moon. This makes the China world’s third nation to achieve a lunar soft landing,” said the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in an online post on the mission’s official page on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter equivalent.

The landing came 12 days after blast-off and was the first of its kind since the former Soviet Union’s mission nearly four decades ago.

Many Chinese took to the country’s Internet message boards expressing joy at the news, which state news agency Xinhua described as a “historic breakthrough” in an emotional editorial.

“Space exploration is the cause of mankind, not just ‘the patent’ of a certain country,” the commentary said.

“China will share the achievements of its lunar exploration with the whole world and use them to benefit humanity.”

The landing marks the latest step in an ambitious space programme which is seen as a symbol of China’s rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party’s success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.

It comes a decade after the country first sent an astronaut into space, and ahead of plans to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send a human to the moon.

News of the landing quickly made an impact on China’s hugely popular Internet message boards, with the words ‘Chang’e-3 lunar landing’ racing to the top of the list of searched items on Weibo just minutes after touchdown.

The probe touched down on an ancient 400-kilometre wide plain known in Latin as Sinus Iridum, or The Bay of Rainbows.

The landing was previously described as the “most difficult” part of the mission by CAS on Chang’e-3’s Weibo site.

The probe used sensors and 3D imaging to identify a flat surface. Thrusters were then deployed 100 metres from the lunar surface to gently guide the craft into position.


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