Published: Sat, January 05, 2019
Science | By

Chinese rover powers up devices in pioneering moon mission

Chinese rover powers up devices in pioneering moon mission

The six-wheeled rover, known as Yutu 2, isn't pausing to catch its breath, as a newly released photo shows. Previous landings, including one by China's Chang'e 3 in 2013, have been on the near side.

China's Chang'e 4 craft captured a close-up photo of the far side of the moon.

Named after the pet rabbit belonging to the mythical Chinese lunar goddess Chang'e, the Yutu 2 rover is making history as it sends back images and other data from the far side of the moon.

Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb noted, however, that the relay satellite needed to send back information from the far side also contaminates the sky.

So scientists call the area where a Chinese spacecraft just landed the far side, not the dark side.

The moon is what scientists call "tidally locked" which means the same side always faces us, while another side always faces away, Loeb said.

The rover, with a total mass of 140 kg, has a rectangular body 3.6 feet (1.1 m) high, 4.9 feet (1.5 m) long, and 3.3 feet (1 m) wide, but unlike the Yutu rover does not have a robotic arm.

The rover's designer, Shen Zhenrong of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, described the far side of the moon's surface to the state broadcaster CCTV as "soft" and "similar to that when you are walking on the snow", the AP reported. Jade Rabbit 2 drove off a ramp and onto the surface after a Chinese spacecraft made the first soft landing on Thursday on the moon's far side.

China's mission is to learn more about the little-understood region of the moon and compete with the U.S. and Russian Federation as a powerhouse of space exploration. NASA's Apollo 8 astronauts saw it first when they orbited the moon 50 years ago.

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