China has released to the world the first pictures captured by its first lunar rover Jade Rabbit from the moon.
The photos which were beamed down from space to a big monitoring screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center marked a giant step forward for the country's ambitious space programme. Chinese President Xi, Premier Li and dozens of center staff were present when the first few photos were beamed down by Jade Rabbit.
A view of China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, is seen on the lunar surface with the Chinese national flag in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television (CCTV) December 16, 2013. China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon on Saturday, state media reported, in the first such "soft-landing" since 1976, joining the United States and the former Soviet Union in managing to accomplish such a feat. The Chang'e 3, a probe named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, is carrying the solar-powered Yutu buggy, which will dig and conduct geological surveys. REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV
The "Yutu" or "Jade Rabbit" rover was contained within Chang'e-3 when it was hurtled into space on Dec 2 from a base in southwest China. The unmanned Chang'e-3 spacecraft successfully landed at an area of the Moon known as the Bay of Rainbows at around 9pm on Saturday.
Chang'e-3 released "Yutu" or "Jade Rabbit," designed to photograph and collect soil samples from the Moon, around 4.35am on Sunday.
The rover and lander then began taking photos of each other. Highlighted was the bright red and yellow stars of the Chinese flag on the Jade Rabbit standing on the moon's surface.
"One Giant Leap for China," the Hong Kong's Sunday Morning Post headline scouted, reminiscent of the words American astronaut Neil Armstrong said in 1969. Mr Armstrong is well known in the world's history as the man first to have stepped on the moon.
The touchdown a "milestone" in China's space program, Xinhua News reported on Sunday, citing a message from the party's Central Committee, the State Council - China's cabinet - and the Central Military Commission.
This marked the first soft landing on the lunar surface since 1976. China is now the third country, next to the U.S. and former Soviet Union, to have been able to achieve the feat.
"Yutu" or "Jade Rabbit" has been programmed to survey the moon's geological structure for three months, including look for natural resources. The lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year.