China hailed its lunar mission a success after its rover Jade Rabbit, the first to land on the moon, sent back photos to Earth, skyrocketing Beijing’s place in the global space race.

Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, landed on the moon on Saturday aboard the Chang’e 3 lunar lander. The pair took color images, including one taken by the Chang’e 3 showing the Chinese-flagged rover on the moon’s surface, which were then transmitted back to Earth.

Chief commander of China’s lunar program Ma Xingrui declared the mission a “complete success” after the Chang’e 3 made the world’s first soft landing on a volcanic plain on the moon known as Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows.

The Communist Party’s central committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission applauded the “new glory” in China’s ambitious space program.

“China’s lunar program is an important component of mankind’s activities to explore the peaceful use of space,” Sun Huixian, a space engineer with the Chinese lunar program, told Xinhia news agency.

China became the first country since 1976, and the third ever, to land a spacecraft on the moon. The lander will operate on the moon for the better part a year. The remote-controlled rover, equipped with ground-penetrating radar, will work for some three months gathering measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

Chinese state media have dubbed the space program as an element of President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream,” signifying a stronger military and improved livelihoods.

Plans for its next mission to send a spacecraft to the moon and back to Earth in 2017 is already in the works. China aims to launch a manned mission to the moon in the coming years following the recent success of its lunar exploration mission.

“Now as Jade Rabbit has made its touchdown on the moon surface, the whole world again marvels at China’s remarkable space capabilities,” Xinhua news agency said.

By Maesie Bertumen