Chang’e-4 farside mission – lander and Yutu-2 rover


Firstly, there’s some farside news.

China’s Chang’e-4 farside lander/rover mission is now in Moon exploration day 21.

China’s Chang’e-4 lander as viewed by Yutu-2 rover.

Space reporter Andrew Jones tweets that the lander resumed activities at 06:54 UTC today while Yutu-2 awoke at 12:34 July 12. Both spacecraft are reportedly operating well after a 14-day, nighttime cold soak.

Yutu-2 view of farside surroundings.

The Yutu-2 rover, Jones adds, will continue northwest from the landing site, “checking out relatively high reflective material in nearby craters. It will also take a panoramic shot from elevated ground between two craters.”

Chang’e-4 touched down in Von Kármán crater, within the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin, in December 2018.

China plans to launch the ambitious Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission later in 2020. (Image credit: Used with permission: Loren Roberts/The Planetary Society at

Sample return

And while China’s Chang’e-4 rolls into another period of Moon exploration, the country is readying its Chang’e-5 lunar mission.

China appears on track to launch the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon later this year – the third phase of the country’s lunar exploration program.

Terrane camera (TC) morning map of the Rümker region (Lambert conformal conic projection). The white
box denotes the Chang’e-5 landing region. The yellow boxes represent other locations noted in the research paper. The yellow
dashed lines denote the ejecta from Harpalus carter. The blue dashed lines denote ejecta from Pythagoras crater. The
green dashed lines denote ejecta probably from Copernicus crater. Credit: Qian, et al.

The Chang’e-5 mission is comprised of four parts: the orbiter, ascender, lander, and Earth reentry module containing the lunar specimens.

Scalable approach

In many ways, the robotic milestones required for this phase of China’s lunar exploration initiative mirror those of the Apollo human landing program – suggesting a scalable approach to planting Chinese footprints on the Moon.

Apollo 15 image captures landing locale of China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander – the Mons Rümker region in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum.
Credit: NASA

The reported candidate landing region for China’s Chang’e‐5 lunar sample return mission is the Rümker region, located in the northern Oceanus Procellarum. The area is geologically complex and known for its volcanic activity.

If successful, China would become the third nation to haul back to Earth lunar collectibles.

Reportedly, the Chinese mission will retrieve and return to Earth up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar surface and subsurface samples.

Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt.
Credit: NASA

Picking up the pieces

In the “picking up the pieces” of the Moon column, the former Soviet Union did so by robotic means in the 1970s. Their last robotic lunar sample return mission (and last Soviet mission to the Moon) took place in 1976.

During 1969-1972, six Apollo missions placed 12 moonwalkers on the Moon that gathered 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of lunar samples at different landing sites on the lunar surface. The stash included rocks, core samples, lunar soil and dust.

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