China’s first Moon lander, Chang’e-3, taken by Yutu-1 rover during 2013 nearside exploration.


China’s Chang’e-3 robotic Moon mission made a soft landing in late 2013, touching down in the northeast of Mare Imbrium, also called the Sea of Rains.

The Xinhua news agency reports that payloads on that “retired” lunar probe remain operational after more than 2,400 days on the near side of the Moon.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spots China’s Chang’e-3 mission. LROC Narrow Angle Camera view of the Chang’e 3 lander (large arrow) and rover (small arrow) just before sunset on their first day of lunar exploration. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

According to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration some of the scientific payloads carried by the Chang’e-3 lander are still operating.

China’s Yutu-1 lunar rover took this image of Change’3 lander. New lunar landers are being readied for China’s next step in Moon exploration.
Credit: NAOC/Chinese Academy of Sciences

Multilayered finding

In the meantime, Chinese researchers recently reported finding multilayered young lava flows in the Chang’e-3 landing zone. Results from the lunar penetrating radar onboard the Yutu-1 rover have been published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal, Geophysical Research Letters.



Lead author of the paper, Yuefeng Yuan of the Institute of Geophysics and Geomatics, China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China, explains that three layers of thin young mare basalts underlying the lunar soil have been detected at Chang’e-3’s landing site. In previous studies, the region is thought to be formed by one layer of a thick lava flow.

Young lava flows

The thickness distribution of a stratum between interface D and E and the path of the Yutu-1 rover.
Credit: Yuefeng Yuan, et al. lava flows

Lunar penetrating radar data was assessed showing that multilayered young mare basalts underlying the regolith exist, interpreted as three periods of thin Eratosthenian lava flows. The Eratosthenian period in the lunar geologic timescale runs from 3,200 million years ago to 1,100 million years ago.

The result infers that these young lava flows in the northern Mare Imbrium probably erupted intermittently from the same source, according to the research paper.

The relative elevation along the path of the Yutu-1 rover. The inverted red triangles with numbers correspond to the lunar penetrating radar (LPR) acquisition locations.
Credit: Yuefeng Yuan, et al.

Zigzagging route

China’s Chang’e-3 Moon mission delivered the rover Yutu-1, or Jade Rabbit, and a stationary lander to the lunar surface on December 14, 2013. The touchdown marked the first robotic Moon landing since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 sample return mission in 1976.

The site that Yutu-1 investigated is a region not directly sampled before, far distant from the U.S. Apollo lunar landing sites.

Yutu-1 drove a total of 374 feet (114 meters) following a zigzagging route, before succumbing to technical glitches.





To access the research paper — “New Constraints on the Young Lava Flow Profile in the Northern Mare Imbrium” – go to:


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