China's lunar lander snaps first landing site panorama

Dec 23, 2013 by Ken Kremer
Portion of first panorama around Chang’e-3 landing site after China’s Yutu rover drove onto the Moon’s surface on Dec. 15, 2013. The images were taken by Chang’e-3 lander following Dec. 14 touchdown. Panoramic view was created from screen shots of a news video assembled into a mosaic. Credit: CNSA/CCTV/screenshot mosaics & processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

China's inaugural Chang'e-3 lunar lander has snapped the missions first panoramic view of the touchdown spot at Mare Imbrium.

Chinese space officials have now released the dramatic surface imagery captured by the Chang'e-3 mothership on Dec. 15, via a video news report on CCTV.

To make it easier to see and sense 'the new view from the Moon', we have created screen shots from the rather low resolution TV broadcast and assembled them into a photo mosaic of the - see above and below mosaic by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer.

The Chang'e-3 mothership imaged the stark lunar terrain surrounding the spacecraft after the 'Yutu' rover perched atop successfully drove all six wheels onto the moon's surface on Dec. 15, barely 7 hours after the momentous landing on Dec. 14.

The individual images were taken by three cameras positioned around the robotic .

Chinese scientists then pieced them together to form the lander's first of the lunar surface, according to CCTV.

First panorama around Chang’e-3 landing site after China’s Yutu rover drove onto the Moon’s surface on Dec. 15, 2013. The images were taken by Chang’e-3 lander following Dec. 14 touchdown. Panoramic view was created from screen shots of a news video assembled into a mosaic. Credit: CNSA/CCTV/screenshot mosaics & processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

"This picture is made of 60 pictures taken 3 times by the rover. The rover used three angles: vertical, 15 degrees tilted up, and 15 degrees down…so that we get an even farther view," said Liu Enhai, Designer in Chief, Chang'E-3 Probe System, in a CCTV interview

The panoramic view shows 'Yutu' and its wheel tracks cutting a semi circular path at least several centimeters deep into the loose lunar regolith at the landing site at Mare Imbrium, located near the Bay of Rainbows.

A significant sized crater, several meters wide, is seen off to the left of Yutu and located only about 10 meters away from the Chang'e-3 lander.

Several more craters are visible in the pockmarked surface around the lander.

Mission leaders purposely equipped the lander with terrain recognition radar and software so that it could steer clear of hazards like craters and large boulders and find a safe spot to land.

Indeed just prior to touchdown, the lander actually hovered at an altitude of 100 meters for about 20 seconds to avoid the craters and rock fields which could have doomed the mission in its final moments.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Chang'E 3 landing full video in HD

Here is our annotated screen shot from the landing video showing the eventual landing site in the distance:

This screen shot from one photo of many of the moons surface snapped by the on-board descent imaging camera of the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e-3 on Dec. 14, 2013 shows the probe approaching the Montes Recti mountain ridge and approximate location of the landing site. This marks the first time that China has sent a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. Credit: Xinhua/CCTV/post processing and annotations: Marco Di Lorenzo /Ken Kremer.

The 140 kilogram Yutu rover then turned around so that the lander and rover could obtain their first portraits of one another.

"The rover reached the point of X after it went down from the lander, then it established contact with the ground. Then it went to point A, where the rover and lander took pictures of each other. Then it reached point B, where it's standing now." said Liu Jianjun, Deputy Chief Designer, Chang'E-3 Ground System, to CCTV.

China thus became only the 3rd country in the world to successfully soft land a spacecraft on Earth's nearest neighbor after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and space agency leaders have hailed the Chang'e-3 mission as a complete success for China.

The Yutu rover, which translates as 'Jade Rabbit' will use its science instruments to survey the moon's geological structure and composition on a minimum three month mission to locate the moon's natural resources for use by potential future Chinese astronauts.

The lander will conduct in-situ exploration at the landing site for at least one year, say Chinese officials.

Hopefully, China will quickly start releasing full resolution imagery and video taken by the Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu at a dedicated mission website, like NASA does, rather than issuing photos of imagery from projection screens and televisions – so that we all can grasp the full beauty of their tremendous lunar feat.

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5 / 5 (5) Dec 23, 2013
NASA might not be the best at public relations, but they did a lot better on Curiosity than the Chinese Space Agency did on this one. I'm amazed that China didn't rush to release at least one really good image, for news agencies to use. I haven't seen hardly any coverage of this on the news, and the lack of any good visuals is probably part of the reason. As I understand it, a good portion of the reason they did this is to show the world what they are capable of. So there's a disconnect somewhere in there, between policy and execution.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2013
I thought a panorama was supposed to be high quality and 360 degrees.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2013
It looks like the "U.S.S. Enterprise" might not ever be reality after all, but the "P.R.C. Enterprise" might be.

Consider, our interest payments to China easily pay for an Apollo scaled space program, and much more. They could probably land a man on the moon three times for the amount of money we pay out per year in interest payments on the Federal debt.
not rated yet Dec 30, 2013
Consider, our interest payments to China easily pay for an Apollo scaled space program, and much more

China has a looming financial problem, and it is virtually inevitable. They are getting ready to suffer the consequences of limiting birth rates for the past few decades. It has left them with an over-abundance of aging people and a dirth of young healthy people to pay the bills. That, coupled with the ballooning cost of their infrastructure is like a train wreck happening right now. The front of the train has already crashed, and the back end isn't stopping. Hopefully they will be able to keep their space program going strong though.

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