China today hailed its maiden lunar probe mission a "complete success" after its first moon rover and lander beamed back photos of each other and commenced scientific explorations, marking a great leap forward in its ambitious space programme.
The one-minute photographing, a day after the country finished its first lunar soft landing, showed that both the lander and moon rover functioned well, spokesman for China's lunar probe programme Pei Zhaoyu said.
Ma Xingrui, chief commander of the lunar programme, declared the "complete success" of Chang'e-3 mission at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), where Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were present.
The lunar rover named Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separated from the lander and the 140 kg six-wheeled rover touched the lunar surface on Saturday, leaving deep trace on the loose lunar soil, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Late last night, the rover moved to a spot about 9 meters north to the lander. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent to the Earth. After the separation, the rover and lander took photos of each other and started their own scientific explorations, the report said.
The colour images, live transmitted via a deep space network designed by China, showed the Chinese national flag on Yutu. It marked the first time that the five-star red flag had pictures taken in an extraterrestrial body.
As a photo appeared on a big monitoring screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Chinese President Xi, Premier Li and dozens of center staff cheered.
Chang'e-3 landed on the moon's Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, making China the third country in the world to carry out such a rover mission after the United States and Soviet Union.
This is the world's first soft-landing of a probe on the moon in nearly four decades. The last such soft-landing was carried out by the Soviet Union in 1976.
Yutu will survey the moon's geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for one year.
In a congratulatory message sent by