Updated: 12/15/2013 06:16 | By Agence France-Presse

China's 'Jade Rabbit' lunar rover deployed on moon: Xinhua

China has deployed its lunar rover vehicle on the moon, state media said early Sunday, hours after carrying out the first soft landing on Earth's satellite since 1976 in a major step for Beijing's ambitious space programme.

China's 'Jade Rabbit' lunar rover deployed on moon: Xinhua

A graphic on China's lunar rover vehicle the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit

The Yutu rover was deployed on the moon's surface "several hours" after the Chang'e-3 probe landed, according to official news agency Xinhua, making China the third country to complete a lunar rover mission, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Citing the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the agency said the rover, whose name means "Jade Rabbit" in English, "has touched the lunar surface."

State television station CCTV tweeted an image that it said showed the rover separating from the lander at 4:35 am Beijing time (1935 GMT).

The rover will spend about three months exploring the moon's surface and looking for natural resources.

The Chang'e-3 mission is named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology and the rover vehicle is called Yutu after her pet.

The landing marks the latest step in an ambitious space programme 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.

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