China's Rover Rolls! Yutu Begins Moon Mission
From the article by Ian O'Neill
☽ Today at 3:35 p.m. EST (4:35 a.m. Sunday, Beijing time), the Chinese Chang’E 3 lander lowered its rover to the moon’s surface. A CCTV television broadcast depicted recorded footage of the rover, called “Yutu” (“Jade Rabbit”), rolling off the lander’s sleds, trundling into the lunar dust.
☾ The lander/rover separation follows the first successful “soft” moon landing for 37 years, as the Chang’e 3 lander touched down in the “Bay of Rainbows” (Sinus Iridum), an ancient lava plain region in the moon’s northern hemisphere at 8:11 a.m EST (9:11 p.m. Beijing time).
☽ The last successful soft moon landing was accomplished by the Soviet Union with the Luna 24 sample return mission in 1976. The last manned mission, NASA’s Apollo 17, left the lunar surface on this day in 1972.
☾ In CCTV footage of the rover deployment, many cameras showed Yutu roll out onto the deployment ramp, which slowly lowered the rover to the ground. The rover then rolled off the ramp without incident, making its first tread-marks in the lunar regolith.