The Chinese government says it has successfully landed an unmanned crafter carrying a rover on the Moon, which marks the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years and the first wheeled vehicle on the Moon since the 1970s, BBC reports.
China now joins the United States and Russia as the only nations to introduce space exploration programs.
According to Reuters, the Chang’e 3 spacecraft touched down in the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, at 9:12 p.m. China chose the Bay of Rainbows area because it remains unstudied, Xinhua said.
The lander, from launched from Xichang on December 1, will deploy a robotic rover called “Yutu,” which translates to “Jade Rabbit.” The name was chosen after an online poll of 3.4 million voters, and originates from a Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon.
The BBC reports that the lander and rover are expected to photograph each other on Sunday. The Jade Rabbit rover will also dig and conduct geological studies.
Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington DC based conservative think-tank, discussed how China’s space exploration was a reflection of its economic power, “because you need spare resources to have a space program.”
Such a space observation and tracking system has implications not only for space exploration but for national security, as it can be used to maintain space surveillance, keeping watch over Chinese and other nations’ space assets.
After this mission, China is allegedly planning for another in 2017 and will eventually launch a crewed mission. In June, three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory, part of China’s plan to build a working space station by 2020.
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