China's first moon rover has touched the lunar surface and left deep traces on its loose soil, several hours after the country successfully carried out the first soft landing on the moon in nearly four decades. The 300-pound "Jade Rabbit" rover separated from the much larger landing vehicle early today; State broadcaster China Central Television showed images taken from the lander's camera of the rover and its shadow moving down a sloping ladder and touching the surface, setting off applause in the Beijing control center. It said the lander and rover, both bearing Chinese flags, would take photos of each other this evening.
Later, the six-wheeled rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will carry out scientific explorations at the landing site for one year. "It's still a significant technological challenge to land on another world," says the consultant editor for Jane's Space Systems and Industry. The Chinese "are taking their time with getting to know about how to fly humans into space, how to build space stations ... how to explore the solar system, especially the moon and Mars. Over the next 10 to 20 years they'll certainly be rivaling Russia and America in this area and maybe overtaking them in some areas."