Farside photo from Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

 

China’s Yutu-2 farside lunar rover has traveled about 416 feet (127) meters within the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin.

Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, is now taking a “noon break” as the temperature on the lunar surface rises extremely high, reports China’s Xinhua’s news service. The robot is slated to resume work on March 10 and switch to its dormant mode on March 13, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration.

 

The Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2 rover, was sent to the farside of the Moon on Jan. 3 as part of the Chang’e-4 mission.

On a roll. China’s Yutu-2 rover on the Moon’s farside.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Nearby stones

Experts from the National Space Science Center (NSSC) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) stated that the rover has conducted scientific detection on its tracks and nearby stones. The largest stone detected has a diameter of about 20 centimeters, and the rover came as close as 4 feet (1.2 meters) to this stone.

Researchers are engaged in understanding the origin of the stones, whether they are aboriginal on the Moon, or meteorites from outer space. If they are aboriginal, what is the physical process of their formation?

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured China’s Chang’e-4 farside lander/rover.
Image shows lander (near tip of left arrow) and rover (near tip of right arrow) nestled among craters on the floor of Von Kármán crater.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Bombardment clues?

Ping Jinsong, a researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories under CAS, said that the rocks on the lunar surface might be sputtered body as a result of meteorite impact.

Scientists have found evidence indicating a heavy asteroid bombardment event in the solar system around 3.9 billion years ago. And the SPA Basin might be an impact from that period. The exploration might offer clues as to why the bombardment occurred, said Zou Yongliao, director of the lunar and deep space exploration division of CAS, according to the Xinhua news story.

Pre-launch prepping of Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Difficult driving

From the images sent back from Chang’e-4, scientists found the area surrounding the probe dotted with craters of different sizes, and it’s very difficult for the rover to drive in the region.

According to the rover’s designers from the China Academy of Space Technology, the 298-pound (135-kilograms) — the lightest rover ever sent to the Moon — the machine is capable of avoiding some obstacles. If there are obstacles in front of it, it can stop and plan a new route on its own. It can also climb some slopes and cross rocky terrain.

Credit: Philip Stooke

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