Yutu-2 lunar rover, ready for exploration duties. Credit: CNSA/CLEP


China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover has been reactivated on Thursday, following a planned “nap,” reports China’s Global Television Network, or CGTN.

“China’s space engineers care about the reactivation as the last model [Yutu-1] failed its first awakening in February 2014,” CGTN said.

Safe on the farside, Chang’e 4 set down somewhere in this NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LROC image obtained July 17, 2010. The lines connect craters seen in the Chang’e 4 descent image (CNSA/CLEP) with the same craters seen in the LROC image.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Chang’e-4 landed on January 3 within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, the largest and deepest basin in the solar system. The touchdown was in Von Kármán crater, a 110 miles (186-kilometers) wide region.

International payloads

Meanwhile, a suite of international payloads carried on the farside Chang’e-4 mission have started operation.

A neutron radiation detector aboard the lander, developed by Germany, and a neutral atom detector on the rover, developed by Sweden, have both been switched on, according to China National Space Administration (CNSA) statement. Both detectors have been booted up and are under testing.

Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN) device.
Credit: Swedish Institute of Space Physics



Moon water

Sweden’s Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN) device is to study how the solar wind interacts with the lunar surface. ASAN was built in collaboration with the Chinese National Space Science Center (NSSC). It is the first time an energetic neutral atom sensor is deployed on the lunar surface. From a vantage point of only a few decimeters above the regolith surface, ASAN will measure energy spectra of energetic neutral atoms originating from reflected solar wind ions under different solar wind illumination conditions.

“Yes, we have successfully started commissioning of ASAN and expect the first science data before mid February…it depends on the rover being in a favorable position,” Martin Wieser, researcher at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and principal investigator of ASAN, told Inside Outer Space.

ASAN is mounted on the Yutu-2 rover making it possible to perform measurements at different locations. The measurements could shed light on the processes responsible for the formation of water on the Moon.

Relay satellite for handling farside operations.
Credit: CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center (CNSA-LESEC)

Data from these instruments will be transmitted to the ground via the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), which was launched in May 2018 to set up the communication link between Earth and the Moon’s farside, and jointly studied by Chinese and foreign scientists, CNSA said.

Tricky landing

In a Xinhua news item, Yang Yuguang, a professor at the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, said the farside landing was tricky. The terrain at the farside of the Moon is entirely different compared to the nearside. There are more highlands, craters, and mountains and the landform is much steeper.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Yang underscored a new low-frequency spectrometer carried on the Chang’e-4 mission that will conduct a radio-astronomical study from the farside, an ideal place to conduct the study as there is no radio disturbance from Earth.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Chinese space officials have noted the cooperation offered by NASA, specifically orbital data from the space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The Chinese side has provided the landing timing and location, CNSA said.

NASA’s LRO is slated to overfly the area in coming weeks and may possibly spot the Chang’e-4 and its rover. LRO will be able to scout for the Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover about midnight, January 31st, Mark Robinson told Inside Outer Space. He is principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LROC camera system at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space


An Argentina-based ground station built by China has played an important role in the monitoring and control of the mission. Furthermore, ground stations run by the European Space Agency will also offer support, according to Xinhua.

The Chang’e-4 mission also includes a radioisotope heat source, a collaboration between Chinese and Russian scientists, to thwart the 14 day/14 night temperature swings on the Moon.

“International cooperation is the future of lunar exploration,” said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program. The participating countries would share the costs, risks and achievements, and learn from each other. We hope to have more international cooperation,” Wu told Xinhua.

Landing region

A summary of the geology of the Chang’e-4 landing region can be found in the Journal of Geophysical Research: 5294 – Huang, J., Z. Xiao, J. Flahaut, M. Martinot, J. W. Head III, X. Xiao, M. Xie, and L. Xiao (2018), Geological characteristics of Von Kármán crater, northwestern South Pole-Aitken basin: Chang’E-4 landing site region, J. Geophys. Res., 123, doi: 10.1029/2018JE005577.

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4 Responses to “China’s Yutu-2 rover Reactivated Following Lunar Nap”

  • John Zizzo says:

    This is amazing and it makes me happy we are all cooperating together on this, it gives me hope as a human.I was wondering if this has any possibility of a scan for signals of an alien origin, given the purity of the environment. No earth signal contamination and atmospheric noise would yield a clean search. Would be very interesting and fun to try. Thank You

  • Dale Gee says:

    Great info, love folks are working together. ..

  • C.c.Mei says:

    Thank for the thorough report of the historic advance. I hope US will take part to promote international cooperation.

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