China's Jade Rabbit rover sends first moon photos

China's Jade Rabbit rover sends first moon photos

BEIJING - China's Jade Rabbit rover sent back its first pictures from the moon, as officials on Monday lauded the first lunar soft landing in nearly four decades as a step forward for "mankind as a whole".

"Exploration of outer space is an unremitting pursuit of mankind," China's space agency, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said in a statement.

The successful mission reflects "the new glory of China to scale the peaks in world science and technology areas," it said, adding it was committed to exploring and using space "for peaceful purposes".

The space agency also offered to step up cooperation with other countries in the field "to utilise outer space and benefit mankind as a whole."

Images released by China's official news agency Xinhua show the lander, covered in golden foil, standing in the Sinus Iridum or Bay of Rainbows, its solar panels open to generate power.

The silver rover is named Yutu or Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang'e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

The imprints of its tracks in the dark soil of the lunar surface can clearly be seen after it rotated to proudly display a red Chinese flag to the camera.

China first sent an astronaut into space a decade ago and is the third country to complete a lunar rover mission after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The landing is a key step forward in Beijing's ambitious military-run space programme, which include plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually sending a human to the moon.

The projects are seen as a symbol of China's rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.

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