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China Releases First Pictures of Rabbit on the Moon

China's National Space Administration has released the first images from its lunar probe, 'Jade Rabbit', a week after it became the first vessel to make a soft landing on the moon's surface in 37 years. The country joins the USA and former Soviet Union as one of only three countries to land equipment on the moon.

State TV in China broadcast live footage of the probe emerging from its lander, 'Chang'e', and descending a ramp to the moon's surface in a region called Sinus Iridum - the Bay of Rainbows. Controlled from China with help from the European Space Agency, the mission is another landmark in China's growing presence in space exploration.

In Chinese legend, Chang'e is a fairy who lives on the moon alongside a rabbit called Yutu, or 'Jade Rabbit'.

Chang'e was launched into space on 1 December. The probe's mission is to explore the lunar surface to seek out natural resources, over a period of up to three months. China plans to launch a new series of unmanned lunar probes in 2017 to collect and bring back samples. China's President Xi Jinping recently called on the country to establish itself as a space power:

"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. With the development of space programmes, the Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further into space," Xi Jinping said to three Chinese astronauts via video link.

China hopes to put a human on the moon by 2025 but to date only 12 people have ever set foot on its surface. The first was Neil Armstrong in 1969, the last Eugene Cernan in 1972. Cernan wrote his daughter Tracy's initials - "TDC" - in the dust. As there is no atmosphere - and thus no erosion - on the moon, the letters could remain intact for billions of years.