Group shot...China's Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Group shot…China’s Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

I asked Yong-Chun Zheng, an associate researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, to provide an update on the overall health of the Chang’e 3 moon lander and the Yutu rover.

 Both mooncraft are soon to enter their next celestial slumber. On the Moon, there are roughly 14 days of sunlight/14 days of ultra-cold night.

In part, here is Yong-Chun’s response to me via e-mail:

Self-awakened hardware

Since the soft landing of China’s Chang’e 3 mission upon the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 2013, the Yutu (Jade rabbit) rover has experienced three lunar day cycles.

 On March 14, the ground station received telemetry signals from the Yutu rover. It indicated that the rover was self- awakened successfully and entered into its fourth lunar day on the Moon, Yong-Chun said.

Two days earlier, the Chang’e 3 lander entered into the model of long-term management. The lander was also self- awakened into its fourth lunar day.

In the previous three lunar days, the lander operated normally. The science instruments on the lander, such as the lunar-based telescope, the topographic camera, the extreme-ultraviolet camera, and the lunar dust detector have completed the planned detection and measurements.

These instruments have generated a lot of science data and engineering data. As expected, the lander will work for one year on the Moon, Yong-Chun said.

Driving electronics

As previously reported by Ye Peijia, chief scientist with the Chang’e 3 lunar probe mission, the rover has suffered a problem in its driving electronics section.

“The rover cannot move again,” Yong-Chun said. In addition to that, the solar wings of the Yutu rover cannot be folded to keep the inside of the robot warm during lunar night. All other functions of the rover are working properly, he said.

Yong-Chun said that the Yutu rover has experienced very low temperatures during the last three lunar nights. According the designed procedures, the rover has entered into the mode of long-term management.

Meanwhile, Yutu’s panoramic camera and its ground penetrating radar “are working normally,” Yong-Chun reported.

Solid foundation

“The rover was designed to walk several miles. Actually, it walked only about one hundred meters on the Moon, Yong-Chun said. That being the case, “it influenced the achievements of the science goals of the rover.”

However, the Chang’e 3 lander and the Yutu rover have achieved their engineering tasks successfully.

“They got a lot of engineering data and science data,” Yong-Chun said. The experience of soft landing and driving a rover on the Moon, he concluded, provided a solid foundation for future lunar surface missions.

2 Responses to “China’s Moon Landing Mission: A Status Check”

  • Magnificent website. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you on your effort!

  • B.Selvadurai says:

    Leonard, Please can we have a status update. This was done about a year ago and with Chang’e 5 a about a year away from launch, it will be nice to know China’s plans for the moon. Also the status of the lander and rover of Chang’e 3 as well as Chang’e 5T

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