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

The lander and rover of China’s Chang’e-4 lunar farside mission have resumed operations for the 21st lunar day. A lunar day is equal to 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length.

China’s farside rover images Chang’e-4 lander in the distance.

Chinese news groups note that the lander woke up at 14:54 Thursday (Beijing Time) while the rover awoke at 20:34 Wednesday. Both are in normal working order, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The Chang’e-4 mission was launched on December 8, 2018. It made the first-ever soft landing on the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the farside of the Moon on January 3, 2019.

The Yutu-2 rover will continue to move northwest toward the basalt area or the impact craters with high reflectivity, according to the center.

China’s Chang’e-5 robotic sample return mission.


Ambitious venture

If all goes according to plan, China is preparing the Chang’e-5 lunar mission by year’s end. This ambitious venture is focused on collecting and returning lunar specimens back to Earth by robotic means – a task last done in 1976 by the former Soviet Union.

Soviet Union’s last Moon sample mission, Luna 24 sits on the edge of a 60 meter diameter crater. Photo taken by NASA’s
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


The former Soviet Union successfully executed three robotic sample return missions: Luna 16 returned a small sample (101 grams) from Mare Fecunditatis in September of 1970; February 1972, Luna 20 returned 55 grams of soil from the Apollonius highlands region; Luna 24 retrieved 170.1 grams of lunar samples from the Moon’s Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis) for return to Earth in August 1976.

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

Apollo-like architecture

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

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

In many ways, but on a smaller scale, Chang’e-5’s step-by-step trek mirror those of the Apollo human landing program architecture– suggesting a scalable approach to planting Chinese footprints on the Moon.

Location of the Rümker region (black box). Yellow star represents the proposedChang’e-5 candidate landing sites.
Credit: Chikondi Chisenga, et. al



Landing region

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

Detailed study of the Chang’e-5 landing region has narrowed down to four potential candidate landing sites within that region that would maximize the scientific return of the mission.

If successful, China would become the third nation to grab, stash, and haul back to Earth select lunar samples.

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