We reported yesterday that China’s first unmanned spacecraft Chang’e-3 that includes a lander and a moon rover called “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit) successfully landed on the Moon. In fact, it is the first soft-landing on the Moon by any spacecraft in 37 years. However, since landing, the Jade Rabbit rover has already reportedly sent over 4600 images back to Earth.
Chang’e-3 landed in the Sinus Iridum (Latin for “Bay of Rainbows”), a region along the northern part of the Mare Imbrium (“Sea of Showers”) in the moon’s northern hemisphere. A camera on the spacecraft snapped 59 photos of the Moon during the descent, including a view straight from the lunar surface just after touchdown. However, a few hours after landing, moon rover Yutu’s 6 wheels were unlocked by the firing of explosive devices and the rover unfolded its solar wings and deployed its instrument-laden mast. A cable connecting the rover and lander was then cut. A “transferer” system — resembling a pair of ladders set up on the lander —then unlocked to inch down closer to the lunar surface, allowing the Yutu rover access to the moon’s surface to begin its lunar trek.
Note that Yutu runs on solar-power and goes into hibernation at night. It weighs nearly 310 lbs (140 kilograms) and is outfitted with navigation and panoramic cameras. The lower front portion of the rover is equipped with hazard-avoidance cameras. It has two mechanical arms, designed to dig for sample soil on the Moon’s surface. Here’s a video of Jade Rabbit rolling to Moon surface.
Yutu will survey the Moon’s geological structure and surface substances. It will also look for natural resources. Jade Rabbit will be there for three months.