Tech & Sci
2019.01.04 22:06 GMT+8

Chang'e-4 lunar mission: What's next for lunar rover Yutu-2?

By Wu Lei, Chen Weikui

After being dispatched from the lander, China's latest lunar rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabit-2, is now rolling on the far side of the Moon. 

What are the major highlights of the new rover? And what can we expect next? 

Lunar rover Yutu-2 continues to rollĀ on the far side of the Moon as planned. /CNSA Photo

After almost seven hours of operation, the new rover Yutu-2 has finally rolled down from the lander.

"What's next for the rover is to take a picture of the front side of the lander, after that, it will go to its planned area and start a series of scientific exploration projects in the Von Carmen crater," said Zhang Yuhua, deputy chief commander and designer for the Chang'e-4 lunar mission.

Yutu-2 is expected to first take a photo of the lander and then survey the lunar terrain. /CGTN Photo

The Jade Rabbit-2 will survey the lunar terrain during the Moon's daytime which lasts until January 12. After that, a 14-day-long Moon night is expected to come.

Yutu-2 leaves its first footprints on the far side of the Moon. /CNSA Photo

As of 17:00 on January 4, the three five-meter antennas of the low-frequency radio spectrometer on the lander were deployed in place. The neutron and radiation dose detector was ready for testing in Germany. Images from the topography camera were successively transmitted back to the ground.

The perambulator and the relay star successfully established an independent data link, completed environmental perception and path planning, and walked on the lunar surface to point A as planned to carry out scientific exploration.

The Moon-measuring radar and panoramic camera have been turned on and are working normally. Other payloads will also be switched on.

The Yutu-2 is expected to enter a dormant state during the 14-day Moon night. /CGTN Photo

The latest data show the current temperatures during the Moon's daytime can reach as high as over 107 degrees Celsius, while at night, some experts estimate temperatures will drop to 180 degrees Celsius below freezing, according to Zhang.

According to scientists, the lander and rover will enter a rest mode due to the high temperature. 

"While during the Moon's night time, the rover will enter a dormant state, it will store away its solar panels, just like sleeping and being covered with a quilt," said Zhang.

Experts say the Yutu-2 faces more challenges than the Yutu, as its landing area, the Aitken Basin, is the largest, deepest and oldest crater in the solar system. /CGTN Photo

Jia Yang, the deputy designer of the rover system for the Chang'e-4 lunar mission, told CGTN that one of the major challenges for the rover is the natural environment on the far side of the Moon.  Rocks, craters and soft lunar soil are major obstacles in conducting further exploration.

The outlook for the Chang'e-4 rover is very similar to its previous model, the Jade Rabbit. But scientists say they have updated many of its materials and technologies so that it can withstand the extreme weather and other challenging conditions on the Moon.

The relay satellite Queqiao will continue to play a key role in communicating between the rover and ground control on the Earth. /CGTN Photo

When it comes to the communication bridge, the relay satellite Queqiaoits, its chief designer Zhang Lihua explained that the satellite will continue to provide long-term and stable communication services to ensure that the Jade Rabbit-2 is in stable condition, and also to serve other global lunar spacecraft.

Scientists hope the Yutu-2 will have a more stable and long journey. /CGTN Photo

The Yutu or Jade Rabbit is a symbol of kindness, purity, and agility in Chinese culture. Although the Jade Rabbit-2 is also designed to work for three months, scientists hope it can complete its exploration and have a more stable and long journey.

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