China’s Rover is making its tracks on the soft surface of the ‘dark’ side of the Moon after touching down on our nearest celestial neighbor and plans to start the early stages for construction of a Lunar Base in 2020.
A Chinese rover is making its tracks on the soft surface of the ‘dark’ side of the moon after touching down on our nearest celestial neighbor.
The Yutu-2 – or Jade Rabbit 2 – rover drove off its lander’s ramp and onto the exterior of the moon’s far side at 10:22pm Beijing time on Thursday, about 12 hours after the Chinese spacecraft carrying it came to rest.
China’s space agency later posted a photos online, revealing lunar rover several yards away from the spacecraft.
The tracks it makes on the surface of the moon will be forever immotalized and will never be lost as there is no wind on the moon due to its lack of an atmosphere.
By 5pm Beijing time the three 15-foot long antennaes on Chang’e-4 had also been fully unfurled to enable the low-frequency radio spectrometre to begin work.
The rover which is currently meandering around the moon on six independently controlled wheels, has also established a robust connection with its relay satellite.
Yutu-2 has already completed environmental perception, route planning, walking to where it is pictured currently and starting its scientific operations.
Chinese state media also reports that the cameras on the machine have been turned on and are working normally.
Other equipment will be turned on one by one, according to the Chinese space agency CNSA.
Yutu-2 is expected to go into standby mode – ‘nap mode’ in Chinese – once these tests are complete. Experts hope it will reactivate on January 10 and resume normal functioning, according to China Central Television, although that is not guaranteed.
Jade Rabbit 2 weighs 308lbs and has six individually powered wheels so it can continue to operate even if one wheel fails.
It can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to eight inches tall and its maximum speed is said to be 200 metres per hour.
The pioneering rover is five feetlong and about 3 feet wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels.
Yutu-2 and its accompanying lander will carry out mineral, biological and radiation tests vas well as surveys of the lunar surface nessecary for pre-construction of a lunar base.
China is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year and have its own lunar base completed by 2036.
Results of these experiments could lead to new understandings of the challenges faced by settlers who may one day colonise our natural satellite and conduct mining operations.
‘It’s a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation,’ Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project said.
‘This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe.’
The rover is equipped with a variety of scientific instruments to help it analyse the surface of the moon, including a panoramic and infrared camera, ground-penetrating radar a low-frequency radio spectrometer.
However, experts say that the craft will not be able to function indefinitely and may only be able to operate for as little as 2 Earth weeks.
‘Of course, it’s never going to leave the Moon, so the question is really how long it can remain operational,’ said Professor Ian Crawford from the department of Earth and planetary sciences at Birkbeck College London
‘I suspect they will hope for at least one lunar day – 14 Earth days – after which, if it is still working, it will have to hibernate during the 14-day lunar night because it is solar powered, and hopefully wake up again afterwards.
‘That is a tall order because the lunar night is so cold – about -292°F.
‘While operational, it will also rove around studying the composition of rocks, and the sub-surface using its ground-penetrating radar.
‘It will just be left on the Moon once it ceases to function, unless one day it is collected and brought back to a museum.’
The rover will use its panoramic camera to identify interesting locations and its Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS) will help analyse minerals in the crater.
This includes what scientists call ‘ejecta’ – rocks that have churned up from deep to the surface from impacts meteors.
Its Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) instrument will take a look down into the depths of the moon with a maximum vertical distance of approximately 300 feet (100 metres).
The lander also has a low-frequency radio spectrometer (LFS) which will be part of a scientific experiment to study space without the constant radio interference from Earth.
Being on the far side of the moon shields the equipment from the noise and will allow Chang’e-4 to produce a low-radio wave emission map of the sky.
The far side can’t be seen from Earth and is popularly called the ‘dark side’ because it is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.
Three nations – the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China – have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, but the latest landing is the first on the far side.
That side has been observed many times from lunar orbit, but never up close.
Beijing is hoping to send another probe next year that will retrieve samples and bring them back to Earth.
China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.
‘With ESA, Roscosmos and NASA all taking significant steps and the private space race between SpaceX and other firms hotting up, it could bring about a renaissance in space exploration.’
China has steadfastly insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the US Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.
The mission highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.