Chinese Spacecraft Soft-Lands on Moon

  • Dec 14, 2013 1:28pm GMT

China has become the third country, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to soft-land on the moon.

China's first lunar rover Jade Rabbit, being carried on the Chang'e-3 spacecraft, made a controlled descent and landing on the moon less than two weeks after launching from Earth.

Chang'e-3, an unmanned spacecraft, will release Jade Rabbit (called Yutu in Chinese) -- a six-wheeled lunar rover equipped with at least four cameras and two mechanical legs that can dig up soil samples to a depth of 30 meters.

The solar-powered rover will patrol the moon's surface, studying the structure of the lunar crust as well as soil and rocks, for at least three months. The robot's name was decided by a public online poll and comes from a Chinese myth about the pet white rabbit of a goddess, Chang'e, who is said to live on the moon.

Weighing 140 kilograms, the slow-moving rover carries an optical telescope for astronomical observations and a powerful ultraviolet camera that will monitor how solar activity affects the various layers - troposphere, stratosphere and ionosphere - that make up the Earth's atmosphere, China's information technology ministry said in a statement.

The Jade Rabbit is also equipped with radioisotope heater units, allowing it to function during the cold lunar nights when temperatures plunge as low as -180°C (-292°F).

Image courtesy Business Week.