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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yutu rover beams back pictures from the surface of the Moon

Yutu (玉兔 - "Jade Rabbit") is an unmanned lunar rover in China's Chang'e 3 mission to the Moon.
 It was launched on 1 December 2013, and reached the Moon's surface on 14 December 2013. The mission marks the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976 and the first rover to operate there since the Soviet Lunokhod 2 ceased operations on 11 May 1973. Though Yutu is 40 years behind American and Soviet rovers. It still represents a significant achievment for Chinese space effort. The scientific objectives of Chang'e-3 mainly include lunar surface topography and geology survey, lunar surface material composition and resource survey, Sun-Earth-Moon space environment detection and lunar-based astronomical observation.
Chang'e 3 will attempt to perform the first direct measurement of the structure and depth of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 m (98 ft), and investigate the lunar crust structure down to several hundred meters deep. The Yutu rover has a mass of 140 kg, with a payload capacity of 20 kg. Yutu is equipped with a robotic arm to position its APXS near a target sample. In addition, the rover can transmit video in real time, and has automatic sensors to prevent it from colliding with other objects. Yutu was designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometres during its 3-month mission, with a maximum travelling distance of 10 km. The Yutu rover carries a ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to inspect the composition of the soil and the structure of the lunar crust beneath it. The lander entered sleep mode on 25 December, followed by the rover on 26 December.
On 11 January 2014, after the two-week lunar night was over, both the rover and lander were taken out of sleep mode. On 16 January, the rover completed its first examination of the lunar soil.
Future missions may bring moon soil back to earth. Some of pictures from the surface of the Moon:
View of Earth from the Moon – by Chang’e-3 on Christmas Day 2013 Earth indeed is a blue marble.
From extreme ultraviolet camera on Dec. 16, 2013 shows the observation of the Earth’s plasmasphere
Photo of Yutu moon rover taken by camera on the Chang’e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15, 2013 Chinese flag is brightly red.
Yutu portrait taken by the Chang’e-3 lander on Dec. 22, 2013
Photo of Chang’e-3 moon lander emblazoned with Chinese national flag taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover on Dec. 22, 2013
A digitally-combined polar panorama shows a 360 degree color view of the moonscape around the Chang’e-3 lander after the Yutu moon rover drove onto the lunar surface leaving visible tracks behind

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