China's first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separated from the lander early on December 15, several hours after the Chang'e-3 probe soft-landed on the lunar surface.
The six-wheeled rover touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m., leaving deep trace on the loose lunar soil. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent to the earth.
The transfer mechanism with Yutu aboard unlocked at 4:06 a.m. with one side reaching the moon's surface, allowing the rover to descend to the surface following a ladder mechanism.
After the separation, the rover and lander will take photos of each other and start their own scientific explorations.
Chang'e-3 landed on the moon's Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, at 9:11 p.m. Saturday, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the United States and former Soviet Union.
In ancient Chinese mythology, Yutu was the white pet rabbit of the lunar goddess Chang'e. The name for the rover was selected following an online poll that collected several million votes from people around the world.
(Xinhua News Agency December 15, 2013)