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China's 'Jade Rabbit' rover rolls onto Moon's surface

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After a very successful landing by the Chang'e 3 spacecraft on Saturday, the attached rover, called Yutu or "Jade Rabbit," detached itself from the lander yesterday, rolling off a ramp and onto the lunar surface at 4:30 am Beijing time.

The landing by a Chinese spacecraft is the first soft landing on the Moon since the manned Apollo missions ended in the 1970s and the Soviet Union's Luna 24 lander in 1976. Like the launch and landing, the release of the rover was virtually flawless, allowing China to celebrate its continued space exploration achievements in recent years.

Yutu is a six-wheeled, 140 kg (308 pound) solar-powered rover which will explore the landing area of Sinus Iridum or "Bay of Rainbows." Compared to the Mars rovers, Yutu is rather small, measuring only about 1.5 metres long (with its solar panels folded) but will be capable of conducting detailed analysis of rocks and soil during its nominal 3-month mission. It even has ground-penetrating radar under its belly which can reach below the surface to a depth of about 30-100 metres (100-330 feet).

The full landing sequence video of Chang'e 3 can be watched here.

China is now only the third country to have landed on the Moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

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