China has become only the third country in history to successfully make a soft landing on the Earth’s moon, and now the Jade Rabbit rover will begin its mission to study the satellite’s surface.
China’s Chang’e 3 moon lander touched down on the moon’s surface at 8:11 a.m. EST on Dec. 14 and then released the Yutu rover, also known as “Jade Rabbit.” This is the first soft landing on the moon – as opposed to hard landing probes which crash into the surface – in 37 years, landing in a region known as the Bay of Rainbows.
With Jade Rabbit successfully deployed, the Chang’e 3 lander will now switch modes to observe the Earth from the lunar surface as well as other celestial bodies. It will also be keeping an eye on the rover as it makes its way across the surface.
China will not be keeping the data it collects on the mission to itself and plans to share its findings with other space agencies. The hope is that this mission will inspire other countries to either return to the moon or make their first ever journeys there and will lead to a more permanent human presence on our planet’s lone moon.