Image credit: Barbara David

In a wait-a-minute moment, pre-launch imagery of China’s Chang’e-6 shows some sort of a mini-rover with four wheels.

But so far, as far as I know, there’s been no official word from the China National Space Agency (CNSA) regarding the rover.

A glimmer of information has come from a story via China’s Science Network (news.sciencenet.cn). It does note the presence of a Chang’e-6 lunar rover.

Chang’e-6 pre-launch look with wheeled rover attached, left.
Image credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Imaging spectrometer

According to the article, the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (later referred to as Shanghai Institute of Ceramics) undertook the development of a number of key materials.

“The large-sized tellurium dioxide crystal developed by the Shanghai Silicate Institute has excellent acoustic and optical properties and is a key material to achieve a large field of view, high spatial and spectral resolution, and is used in the infrared imaging spectrometer of the Chang’e-6 lunar rover,” the story explains.

Artwork of Chang’e-6 landing on Moon’s far side.
Image credit: CGTN/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Shutter speak

“The ultrasonic motor is the ‘helper’ that presses the shutter for the ‘Chang’e Family’ lunar rover’s infrared imaging spectrometer. Piezoelectric ceramics are the core material of the ultrasonic motor,” the story continues. “Following Chang’e-3, 4 and 5, the wide temperature range and highly stable piezoelectric excitation element developed by Shanghai Silicate Institute was successfully used in the Chang’e-6 ultrasonic motor.”

So there you have it, all of it so far. But surely more is to come given a successful far side touchdown of the Chang’e-6 sample return mission. If the rover is deployed and in good shape, perhaps looks at lunar sampling operations may be in the offing.

China’s first Moon lander, Chang’e-3, taken by Yutu-1 rover during 2013 nearside exploration.
Image credit: CNSA/CLEP

Then there’s the prospect of a view of the Chang’e-6’s ascender craft departing the area, loaded with its precious cargo of collected Moon goodies.

Rover comparisons

On the other hand, the Chang’e-6 rover machinery is clearly different than the earlier Yutu-1 and Yutu-2 rovers, each with six wheels, both loaded to their solar panels with lots of equipment.

China’s Yutu-1 Moon rover.
Image credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Yutu-2 on the prowl.
Image credit: CNSA/CLEP


The Chang’e-3 Moon lander let loose Yutu-1 in Mare Imbrium after its December 2013 arrival on the Moon.  

Yutu-2’s home turf since deployed by the Chang’e-4 lander in January 2019 is Von Kármán crater within the Moon’s south pole-Aitken basin. It is reportedly alive and well and still on the move.

Chang’e-4 lander as observed by Yutu-2 rover.
Image credit: CNSA/CLEP


Lastly, as a prelude to the launch of Chang’e-6, a communication test between China’s recently lofted Queqiao-2 relay satellite was carried out, one aspect of which was linking up with Chang’e-4 far side lander/rover hardware.

Hopefully, more details about the Chang’e-6 rover duties are forthcoming, once rolling about the landing zone.

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