At 1311 GMT on 14 December, China’s space programme managed to land its first rover exploration vehicle on another body when its Chang’e 3 lander touched down on the Moon. Following a breaking burn to reduce the velocity of the craft from 1.7km/s to approach velocity, the craft came into a hover at about 100m altitude while checks were made that a landing zone was clear of debris. A successful landing took hen place at the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridium).
The electrically powered unmanned rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) was driven off the lander over seven hours later at 2035 GMT allowing China to become only the third nation after USA and Russia to drive a wheeled rover vehicle on the Moon. The Yutu rover which is named from Chinese lunar myth, carries several scientific instruments is to undertake a three month mission of exploration.
Comment by David Todd: It was the landing itself was the most impressive feet in this mission. China has now demonstrated that it has the technology to land its astronauts (“taikonauts) on the Moon. As such China remains only just behind USA and ahead of Russia if it wants to return humanbs to the moon first.