The Chinese craft carrying Jade Rabbit robotic rover has successfully landed on the surface of the Moon, the first soft landing there for 37 years.
A landing module used thrusters to touch down, marking the latest step in China’s ambitious space exploration programme.
Several hours later, the lander will deploy a robotic rover called Yutu, which translates as “Jade Rabbit”.
The touchdown took place on a flat plain called Sinus Iridum.
The Chang’e-3 mission launched atop a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket on 1 December from Xichang in the country’s south.
The probe’s soft-landing was the most difficult task during the mission, Wu Weiren, the lunar programme’s chief designer, told Xinhua.
It is the third robotic rover mission to land on the lunar surface, but the Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload than previous missions, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.
The Jade Rabbit was expected to be deployed several hours after touchdown, driving down a ramp lowered by the landing module.
Reports suggest the lander and rover will photograph each other at some point on Sunday.
According to Chinese space scientists, the mission is designed to test new technologies, gather scientific data and build intellectual expertise, as well as scouting for mineral resources that could eventually be mined.
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