Yutu moon rover sets sail for breathtaking new adventures

Dec 24, 2013 by Ken Kremer, Universe Today
China’s 1st Moon rover ‘Yutu’ embarks on thrilling adventure marking humanity’s first lunar surface visit in nearly four decades. Yutu portrait taken by the Chang’e-3 lander. Credit: CNSA/CCTV

China's now famous 'Yutu' moon rover has set sail for what promises to be breathtaking new adventures on Earth's nearest neighbor, after completing a final joint portrait session with the Chang'e-3 lander that safely deposited her on the lunar surface only a week ago.

Yutu's upcoming journey marks humanity's first lunar surface visit in nearly four decades since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 sample return vehicle visited. America's last lunar landing mission with the Apollo 17 astronauts departed 41 years ago on Dec. 14, 1972.

The Chang'e-3 mothership and Yutu rover have resumed full operations after awakening from a sort of self induced slumber following commands from Mission Control back in Beijing.

The lander and rover finished up their 5th and final dual picture taking session – in living lunar color – on Sunday, Dec. 22, according to CCTV, China's state run broadcast network.

"Ten pictures have been taken at five spots so far, and all of them are better than we expected," said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the China Lunar Probe Program, to CCTV.

After arriving on the moon, Yutu and the lander took an initial pair of portraits of one another.

Yutu was then directed to travel in a semicircular path around the lander and to the south, making tracks several centimeters deep into the loose lunar regolith.

But within two days of the historic Dec. 14 touchdown, the two spacecraft took a four-day break that lasted from Dec. 16 to Dec. 20, during which China's space engineers shut down their subsystems, according to China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).

The rover and lander have taken photos of each other for the fifth and final time. The back side of Chang’e 3 lander as seen by rover Yutu with Chinese national flag at left imaged for the first time. Credit: CNSA/CCTV

The vehicles took a 'nap" to deal with direct solar radiation that significantly raised their temperatures. Yutu's sunny side exceeded 100 degrees centigrade while the shaded side was simultaneously below zero, reported SASTIND.

"The break had been planned to last until Dec. 23, but the scientists decided to restart Yutu now for more research time, based on the recent observations and telemetry parameters," said Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the Chinese lunar program, according to China's Xinhua state news agency.

Both robots then snapped additional photos of one another during the traverse from each of five specific and preplanned locations.

These images taken by Yutu were designed to show the 1200 kg Chang'e-3 lander from the front, side and back sides as it drove around the right side – for better illumination – at a distance of about 10 meters.

Yutu and the Chang’e 3 lander were scheduled to take photos of each other from locations outlined in this artists concept. Credit: China Space

The final image of the Chang'e-3 lander taken by Yutu also captured China's national flag emblazoned on the lander for the first time, since this was the first time it was in view of the rover's camera eyes.

Having fulfilled the last of their joint tasks, the two spacecraft can therefore each begin their own lunar exploration missions, working independently of one another exactly as planned from the outset of China's inaugural moon landing feat.

Yutu will depart the Chang'e-3 landing zone forever and begin its own lunar trek that's expected to last at least 3 months – and perhaps longer if it's delicate electronic components survive the moon's utterly harsh and unforgiving space environment.

"They will begin to conduct scientific explorations of the geography and geomorphology of the landing spot and nearby areas, and materials like minerals and elements there. We will also explore areas 30 meters and 100 meters beneath the lunar soil. The exploration will continue longer than we planned, because all the instruments and equipments are working very well," noted Wu Weiren.

Landing site of Chinese lunar probe Chang’e-3 on Dec. 14, 2013.

The robotic pair of spacecraft safely soft landed on the Moon on Dec. 14 at Mare Imbrium, nearby the Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridum region

Barely seven hours after the history making touchdown, 'Yutu' was painstakingly lowered from its perch atop the lander and then successfully drove all six wheels onto the moon's surface on Dec. 15.

The Chang'e-3 mothership captured a panoramic view of the stark lunar terrain surrounding the spacecraft after 'Yutu' drove some 9 meters away from the lander.

The 120 kg Yutu rover is almost the size of a golf cart. It measures about 1.5 m x 1 m on its sides and stands about 1.5 m (nearly 5 feet) tall – virtually human height.

Yutu, which translates as 'Jade Rabbit' will use its suite of four science instruments to survey the moon's geological structure and composition to locate the moon's natural resources for use by potential future Chinese astronauts, perhaps a decade from now.

Explore further: China's lunar lander snaps first landing site panorama

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User comments : 18

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Anda
5 / 5 (7) Dec 24, 2013
41 years!! Too much
powerup1
4 / 5 (8) Dec 24, 2013
I'm just waiting for them to claim that all of the moon belongs to China.
EnricM
3 / 5 (2) Dec 25, 2013
I'm just waiting for them to claim that all of the moon belongs to China.


For great justice!
Zephir_fan
Dec 25, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
yyz
4.8 / 5 (10) Dec 25, 2013
@Zephir fan,

The Chinese have partnered with the European Space Agency to provide support for the Chang'e 3 mission. ESA not only provided antennas in support of the descent phase of the mission, sophisticated radio interferometry provided by ESA (with a level of accuracy unavailable to the Chinese) was used to determine the precise location of the lander:

http://www.esa.in..._landing
Zephir_fan
Dec 25, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (11) Dec 26, 2013
@Zephir fan,

All the really smart peoples keep telling this, so I must be wrong. Maybe I'm just prejudiced against the Chinese Skippys. So I'll quite worrying about it until something comes up to get me thinking about it again.


my opinion:
I can understand that some are prejudiced against the Chinese, but science is science, no matter who does it...
and since the US is not really trying to be the big-boy in the game, someone is bound to take over where the US left off. why not just ride the science wave and hope the US can get back into the ball game...
at least, that is how I view it. I would rather the US was back in the game in a much bigger way... but...
maybe by using what the Chinese learn, we can exploit the moon in ways that were talked about 40 years ago? and in more of a global/human way, instead of an political-centric way?
Heathicus
5 / 5 (11) Dec 26, 2013
@Captain Stumpy
my opinion:
I can understand that some are prejudiced against the Chinese, but science is science, no matter who does it...
and since the US is not really trying to be the big-boy in the game, someone is bound to take over where the US left off. why not just ride the science wave and hope the US can get back into the ball game...
at least, that is how I view it. I would rather the US was back in the game in a much bigger way... but...
maybe by using what the Chinese learn, we can exploit the moon in ways that were talked about 40 years ago? and in more of a global/human way, instead of an political-centric way?


As much as I'd like to see people go into space in another moon rush, I think we need to hurry up and get JWST in orbit. This is a global world and I must agree that we all need to work together despite differences to achieve goals. Want to put a rover on the moon? Okay, let's help! I hate when political differences get in the way of science progress.
Gigel
4.8 / 5 (6) Dec 26, 2013
40 years without setting foot on the Moon is a huge lot of time lost to progress. What have we done in this time? We've spent it with economic crises, wars, feuds between superpowers, getting more comfortable and having shorter-range expectations and wishes...

One day our children, after waking up from a nice daydream, may ask us why haven't we gone further like Jean-Luc Picard did, and we'll have to knot our heads really hard to get a credible answer to that.

Maybe we got too realistic. Maybe we should start dreaming again. Learn to hope and work for things that are worthy inheritances for today's children.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Dec 26, 2013
As much as I'd like to see people go into space in another moon rush, I think we need to hurry up and get JWST in orbit. This is a global world and I must agree that we all need to work together despite differences to achieve goals. Want to put a rover on the moon? Okay, let's help! I hate when political differences get in the way of science progress.


i can't argue with that. i agree.
gchelvey
4.7 / 5 (3) Dec 26, 2013
I've noticed several comments that seem to indicate that readers feel that the USA has somehow fallen behind the Chinese in space research. Although I'm happy for the Chinese and wish to encourage them to continue, this moon mission is a far cry from work being done by NASA, the ESA, and Russia's space program. These agencies have nearly autonomous rovers on Mars, numerous space telescopes and planet finders, and have made several missions to the outer planets (including landing on Titan). Not to mention the Voyager probe which has reached interstellar space after travelling for nearly four decades. The Chinese program has a very long way to go begin to catch up, but I hope they someday do it.
ngrailrei
3.5 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2013
But how do we KNOW the Chinese Skippys have actually done this? We just take their word for it and let them claim part of the moon without proof. This is a very stupid thing to do. If you don't make them prove it, it will be too late in twenty or thirty years when the astronauts go back and find out the deeds were given out based on a false squatter's claim.


Oh grow up.
Zephir_fan
Dec 27, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Protoplasmix
3.3 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2013
why not just ride the science wave and hope the US can get back into the ball game...

Whoa, surfer dude :)

We're romping around on what our primitive ancestors thought was the god of war, and we're making a fair amount of waves: http://phys.org/n...eel.html
Click on that photo at the top of the article – surf's up! :)

I wholeheartedly agree with you on more science, less politics, and the US getting back in the game in a much bigger way.
Noumenon
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 28, 2013
But how do we KNOW the Chinese Skippys have actually done this? We just take their word for it and let them claim part of the moon without proof. This is a very stupid thing to do. If you don't make them prove it, it will be too late in twenty or thirty years when the astronauts go back and find out the deeds were given out based on a false squatter's claim.


Idiot. Go back to adolescent trolling after other commenters. You're better at that than trying to make substantive posts yourself. How do you like the Noumenon now?
Zephir_fan
Dec 28, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
rah
5 / 5 (3) Dec 28, 2013
Congratulations to China on this fantastic accomplishment! They wanted to be partners with NASA but Bush said no. Sorry China, Thank you for being embarrassed for us.
orti
not rated yet Dec 29, 2013
Yutu sounds more like me too.
Returners
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 29, 2013
You can fund 2 or 3 manned missions to the Moon per year, at today's costs, for the amount of interest the U.S. pays on the Federal debt every year.

China is in good shape to continue space exploration for several decades,a s the U.S. interest payments will be more than sufficient to pay all of their costs for the foreseeable future. It's like rental property. The tenets barely make a living, but you make far more money than you need.
Sigh
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2013
But how do we KNOW the Chinese Skippys have actually done this? We just take their word for it and let them claim part of the moon without proof.

What is your source for China claiming part of the Moon? China has acceeded to (and perhaps someone can explain what the difference is to "ratified") the Outer Space Treaty (http://disarmamen...e/text), which states that:
Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

Zephir_fan
Dec 30, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
GSwift7
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2013
qchelvy:

I've noticed several comments that seem to indicate that readers feel that the USA has somehow fallen behind the Chinese in space research. Although I'm happy for the Chinese and wish to encourage them to continue, this moon mission is a far cry from work being done by NASA


That's exactly right. NASA might not be doing glamorous moon landings right now, but our efforts to monitor, model and maybe predict solar weather are fairly important, as well as our present work in the van allen belt. These are very important for our daily lives here on the surface, even though the photo opportunities aren't that great. Most people don't have a clue just how many missions NASA is actively running at this very minute. Most people know about Curiosity and maybe Opportunity, and Hubble, but that's about the limit for the average guy or gal on the street.

NASA is very busy, and they actually do a lot with the little money they have.
ScottyB
not rated yet Dec 31, 2013
Here you go @Zephir_fan , NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took a photo of it from orbit, is that proof enough for you??
http://www.bbc.co...25559061
Zephir_fan
Dec 31, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.