Monday, December 16, 2013

China’s Jade Rabbit Moon rover sends back first photos


The first robot rover to land on the Moon in nearly 40 years, China’s Jade Rabbit, has begun sending back photos, with shots of its lunar lander.

Jade Rabbit rolled down a ramp lowered by the lander and on to the volcanic plain known as Sinus Iridum at 04:35 Beijing time on Saturday (20:35 GMT).

It moved to a spot a few metres away, its historic short journey recorded by the lander.

On Sunday evening the two machines began photographing each other.

A Chinese flag is clearly visible on the Jade Rabbit as it stands deployed on the Moon’s surface.

Ma Xingrui, chief commander of China’s lunar programme, declared the mission a “complete success”.

The first soft landing on the Moon since 1976 is the latest step in China’s ambitious space programme, says BBC science reporter Paul Rincon.

The lander will operate there for a year, while the rover is expected to work for some three months.

The Chang’e-3 mission landed some 12 days after being launched atop a Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket from Xichang in the country’s south.

The official Xinhua news service reported that the lander began its descent on Saturday just after 1300 GMT, touching down in Sinus Iridum (the Bay of Rainbows) 11 minutes later.

“I was lucky enough to see a prototype rover in Shanghai a few years ago - it’s a wonderful technological achievement to have landed,” Prof Andrew Coates, from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, told BBC News.

Chang’e-3 is the third unmanned rover mission to touch down on the lunar surface, and the first to go there in more than 40 years. The last was an 840kg (1,900lb) Soviet vehicle known as Lunokhod-2, which was kept warm by polonium-210.

But the six-wheeled Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

Full article: … /world-asia-25393826

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