China’s moon rover leaves marks on moon after 37 years

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December 15, 2013

BEIJING: China's six-wheeled moon rover rolled over the moon surface leaving telltale marks on the lunar soil on Sunday. The operation began hours after the country's space probe vehicle, Chang'e 3, carried out a soft landing on a flat, earth facing side of the moon.

December 15, 2013

BEIJING: China's six-wheeled moon rover rolled over the moon surface leaving telltale marks on the lunar soil on Sunday. The operation began hours after the country's space probe vehicle, Chang'e 3, carried out a soft landing on a flat, earth facing side of the moon.

'Jade Rabbit' touched down on the moon and left deep traces on its loose soil, state media reported Sunday.

The 140-kg rover named Yutu or 'Jade Rabbit' smoothly detached itself from the larger probe vehicle before rolling over the moon's surface. Both the rover and lander, which was also part of the Chang'e 3 vehicle, began taking pictures of each other with the State broadcaster, CCTV, showing some of them.

The Jade Rabbit is the third unmanned vehicle to roll on moon surface, and the first one in 37 years after the former Soviet Union put a much weightier 840-kg rover on the lunar surface in 1976. It has made China the third country besides the US and Soviet Union, to have achieved the feat.

Both Chinese vehicles on the moon have their tasks cut out. The rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface and look for natural resources over the next three months. The lander is expected to carry out scientific explorations at the landing site for one year.

China plans to establish a permanent space station by 2020. This is seen as an impressive target set by China's military backed space program, which sent its first moon probe as recently as 2006. A soft landing as this one has the advantage of not damaging the space vehicles and the equipments in it.

The Chang'e 3 lunar lander and moon rover is part of the second phase of China's three-step robotic lunar exploration program

It took Chang'e-3 spacecraft 12 days to reach the moon since it was launched by a locally developed Long March 3B rocket from Xichang in sountern China. The official Xinhua news agency said the spacecraft began its descent just after 1300 GMT (2100 Beijing time) and touched down on a volcanic plain called Sinus Iridum (the Bay of Rainbows) on the moon's surface 11 minutes later.

Compared to past two rovers that moved over the moon, Jade Rabbit carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust, sources said.


Courtesy: TNN