China’s champion – long duration Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

China’s lunar rover Yutu-2 and Chang’e-4 lander autonomously came back to life on June 15, and entered their 19th lunar day of activity on the farside of the Moon.  A day on the Moon lasts as long as 29.5 Earth days.

China’s Chang’e-4 lander as viewed by Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Since the Chang’e-4 probe made the first-ever soft landing within the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin in early January 2019, it has been working for nearly a year and a half, and continues to relay new images of the lunar surface.

Movement of the Chang’e 4 rover, Yutu-2, captured in NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC images.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Crater examination

According to the China Global Television Network (CGTV), based on the data obtained on the 17th lunar day, the Yutu-2 science team identified a nearby crater for examination.

With a small diameter of about 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) and a depth of not more than 8 inches (20 centimeters), the crater was found at about 10 feet (3 meters) southwest of the current position of the 6-wheeled Yutu-2 lunar rover.

Credit: CNAS/CLEP

There are reflective materials in the center of the crater, which is obviously different from the brightness of the surrounding lunar soil, according to a Xinhua news report.

 

Deep space control stations

In order to provide communications support for China’s first Mars exploration mission, the two deep-space observation and control stations in Jiamusi and Kashi, China, were officially completed on June 13 after over a month’s transformation.

Communications have returned to normal and continue to support Yutu-2, according to China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP).

Scientific discoveries

According to China Central Television (CCTV), the lunar probe and rover have accomplished a series of important scientific discoveries.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screen grab

The rover’s Lunar Penetrating Radar was used to study the geological structure with a depth of over 130 feet (40 meters), unveiling the secrets buried under the surface of the farside of the Moon, enriching understanding of the history of celestial collisions and volcanic activities and shedding new light on the geological evolution of the Moon.

Scientists also analyzed the data of the infrared imaging spectrometer on Yutu-2 and revealed the material composition on the Moon’s farside, verifying that the lunar mantle is rich in olivine, which deepens the understanding of the formation and evolution of the Moon.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Marching northwest

Explains Shen Zhenrong, chief designer of the Yutu-2 rover: “This rover will mainly work on a course to the northwest during this lunar day. First it will explore a plot of lunar soil in which scientists are interested, mainly using infrared imaging spectrometer and panoramic camera. Then it will continue marching toward northwest.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Wu Xueying, deputy chief designer of Yutu-2 rover adds: “Suppose you land on the nearside, it’s simply a plain. But if you go to the farside, it would be like entering high mountains in valleys.”

Rough terrains

Scientifically speaking, Shen says, the rover is expected to go for environments featuring relatively rich geological terrains, which is to say rough terrains. They might offer richer geological information, hence more scientific findings. But from an engineering perspective, considering the safety of the rover, it might be safer to choose a route that is relatively smoother, with flatter slope and fewer rocks.”

Yutu-2 rover (Jade Rabbit-2).
Credit: CNAS/CLEP

“Each step it makes involves a local planning, which is done according to the images of the surroundings formed by the camera carried by rover itself, then transmitted back to the ground where 3D images are restored. Then we map out a relatively safe path based on the rover’s traveling capability,” Shen notes.

Go to this CCTV news agency video detailing China’s Chang’e-4 mission at:

https://youtu.be/1C0-_MVjBDM

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