China became the third country in the world Saturday to land a probe on the lunar surface which the country expects will give it a better scientific understanding of the Moon and further develop its space technology towards the future, a state spokesman said Monday in Beijing.
“China's Chang'e-3 lunar probe succeeded in soft landing on the Moon Saturday evening,” said Wu Zhijian—a spokesperson with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.
The probe soft-landed on the Moon’s surface at 9:11 p.m. Beijing time on Saturday.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported that five of the eight pieces of scientific equipment aboard the probe have started to function, Zou Yongliao, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences said during a press conference.
“The solar-powered Yutu rover is expected to explore the lunar landscape for three months, while the lander will carry out scientific operations for at least a year,” reported Discovery News.
The lunar probe dubbed Yutu, or ‘Jade Rabbit’ was voted upon by 3.4 million Chinese—a key indicator on how important the mission is to the general public. Yutu is the white pet rabbit of the Moon Goddess Chang'e according to Chinese mythology.
Jade Rabbit is the first lunar vehicle to mark the Moon’s surface in 37 years since the Soviet Union landed a probe on the surface in 1976. US astronauts Eugene Cirnan and Harrison Schmitt were the last men on the Moon between December 11 and 14, 1972, during Apollo 17.
China earlier sent its first three astronauts to space in the past summer and plans to take samples of the Moon by 2017. Zhijian updated the progress of that mission Monday saying: “The development of Chang'e-5 is proceeding smoothly.”
The mission’s aim is to return at least two kilograms of lunar soil and rock samples back to Earth.