Little by little we’re getting sharper, clearer pictures from the Chinese Chang’e 3 moon mission. Yesterday the lander beamed back a series of new photos taken with its panoramic camera. Stitched together, they give us a more detailed and colorful look of the rover’s surroundings in northern Mare Imbrium. I’ve ordered the images starting with a nice crisp view of the Yutu rover; from there we turn by degree to the right across the five frames. The final mosaic unfortunately doesn’t have the resolution yet of the other images. Perhaps one will be published soon.
One thing that stands out to my eye when looking at the photos is the brown color of the lunar surface soil or regolith. Color images of the moon’s surface by the Apollo astronauts along with their verbal descriptions indicate a uniform gray color punctuated in rare spots by patches of more colorful soils.
The famous orange soil scooped up by Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan comes to mind. Because Apollo visited six different moonscapes – all essentially gray – it makes me wonder if the color balance in the Chinese images might be off. Or did Chang’e 3 just happen to land on browner soils?