Chinese rover powers up on moon mission

Gwen Vasquez
January 8, 2019

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover. Overall, Chang'e 4 is the second Chinese probe to make a soft landing on the Moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

China's lunar rover drives smoothly on moon's far side By Xinhua Saturday, January 05, 2019, 11:35 By Xinhua Photo provided by the China National Space Administration on Jan 4, 2019 shows image of Yutu-2, China's lunar rover, at preset location A on the surface of the far side of the moon.

While past missions have been to the Earth-facing side, this is the first time ever a spacecraft has landed on the unexplored far side of the moon.

The Yutu-2 rover, equipped with a data transmission link to relay with the Queqiao satellite, completed environment perception and route planning.

Yutu-2, atop the probe, extended its solar panel, stretched out its mast and started to slowly fly to the lunar surface Thursday night.

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The rover, also known as Jade Rabbit 2, has six powered wheels, so it can keep working even if one fails, according to The Associated Press. It has a maximum speed of 200 metres per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20cm tall. 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.

The probe is carrying instruments to characterise the region's geology.

Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces the Earth.

Every semester, Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh demonstrates how the far side gets light using a bright light as the sun and students playing the roles of the moon and the Earth.

Chang'e-4 includes two main parts: the main lander weighing about 1,088 pounds and a 136-kilogramme rover. Its success provided a major boost to China's space program.

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