Today, China carried out the first soft landing on the moon since 1976, joining the United States and former Soviet Union in accomplishing the feat in a major step for Beijing’s ambitious space program.
The emerging superpower is also set to become the third country to complete a lunar rover mission when it deploys its Yutu, or Jade Rabbit vehicle.
Scientists burst into applause as a computer generated image representing the spacecraft, named Chang’e-3, was seen landing on the moon’s surface via screens at a Beijing control centre, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television (CCTV) showed.
The landing came 12 days after blast-off and was the first of its kind since the former Soviet Union’s mission nearly four decades ago.
Many Chinese took to the country’s Internet message boards expressing joy at the news, which state news agency Xinhua described as a “historic breakthrough” in an emotional editorial.
The landing marks the latest step in an ambitious space program which is 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.
It comes a decade after the country first sent an astronaut into space, and ahead of plans to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send a human to the moon.