China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released a stunning new image of the tracks made by the lunar rover that landed on the far side of the lunar surface.
The Jade Rabbit 2, as the rover is called, drove off a ramp the previous night and onto the soft, snow-like 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."
China successfully landed a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon Thursday, becoming the first country to ever do so. The official China Central Television said the lunar explorer Chang'e 4 had touched down at 10:26 a.m. EST. The Chang'e 4 spacecraft was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center atop a Long March 3B rocket at about 1:23 p.m. EST on Dec. 7.
Zhu Menghua, a professor at Macau University of Science and Technology who worked with Beijing on the mission, said the mission’s success is a major milestone for the country and establishes it as a pioneer in space exploration.
The Moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.
The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has six wheels and a maximum speed of 220 yards per hour. It is also able to climb 20-degree hills and objects 8 inches tall.
The surface of the far side has been described as soft and likened to "walking on the snow," according to rover designer Shen Zhenrong who made the comments on CCTV.
"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger," President Xi Jinping said in 2013, shortly after becoming China's leader.
Exploring the far side of the moon and the cosmos that lay beyond it could help scientists understand the early days of the solar system and the birth of the universe's first stars, which were exclusively made up of hydrogen and helium.
Researchers recently discovered a "fossil cloud," known as LLS1723, that may indeed be remnants of the Big Bang, due to the fact it shows no traces of any elements heavier than hydrogen.
The Associated Press, Fox News' Eddie DeMarche and James Rogers contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia