Chinese spacecraft lands on moon By Andreas Landwehr and Bill Smith, dpa Eds: Recasts with landing; epa file photos
The successful landing of the Chang'e-3 spacecraft, at 1311 GMT, makes China only the third nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
It marks another key step in China's ambitious space exploration programme, and the event was marked with celebrations at the control centre in Beijing.
The spacecraft is carrying a Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover.
The landing at Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, was expected to be the most difficult task of the Chang'e-3 mission, Wu Weiren, the chief designer for China's lunar programme, said earlier.
The solar-powered, six-wheeled Jade Rabbit rover weighs 120 kilograms and has a robotic arm to collect a payload of up to 20 kilogrammes.
Named after the mythological pet rabbit of Chang'e, China's moon fairy, the rover can crawl across the lunar surface at up to 200 metres per hour.
It is designed to collect soil samples, survey the moon's geological structure and search for resources for about three months.
Its equipment includes groups of cameras and spectrometers, a radar system to penetrate below the lunar surface, and an optical telescope to observe the plasmasphere over the Earth.
China launched the Chang'e-1 lunar satellite in 2007, followed by a second satellite in 2010.
There are plans to send another mission around 2017 to collect and return to Earth with lunar soil samples.
The lunar landing is part of China's long-term plan to develop its space industry over the next decade and erect a permanent space station around 2020.
China became the third country to launch an astronaut into space in 2003, following the former Soviet Union and the United States.
It has no formal plan to send astronauts to the moon, but officials said scientists are researching a possible manned mission.
The former Soviet Union landed a spacecraft on the moon in 1966, while the United States landed the first astronaut there in 1969.