A Chinese space rover explored the lunar terrain on Friday in the world's first mission on the surface of the far side of the moon.
Jade Rabbit 2 drove off a ramp the previous night and onto the soft, powdery surface after a Chinese spacecraft made the first-ever soft landing on the moon's far side. A photo posted online by China's space agency showed tracks left by the rover as it headed away from the spacecraft.
"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation," Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the moon in 1969. "This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe."
Previous moon landings, including America's six manned missions from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth. The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.
China's space community is taking pride in the successful landing, which posed technical challenges because the moon blocks direct communication between the spacecraft and its controllers on Earth. China has been trying to catch up with the United States and other nations in space exploration.