China’s Maiden Lunar Rover ‘Yutu’ Rolls 6 Wheels onto the Moon – Photo and Video Gallery

China’s first lunar rover separates from Chang’e-3 moon lander early Dec. 15, 2013. Screenshot taken from the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing. Credit: Xinhua/post processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer
Updated- See below Photo Gallery of Yutu’s descent to lunar surface on Dec. 15, 2013[/caption]

China’s first ever lunar rover rolled majestically onto the Moon’s soil on Sunday, Dec. 15, barely seven hours after the Chang’e-3 mothership touched down atop the lava filled plains of the Bay of Rainbows.

Check out the gallery of stunning photos and videos herein from China’s newest space spectacular atop stark lunar terrain.

The six wheeled ‘Yutu’, or Jade Rabbit, rover drove straight off a pair of ramps at 4:35 a.m. Beijing local time and sped right into the history books as it left a noticeably deep pair of tire tracks behind in the loose lunar dirt.

China’s first lunar rover separates from Chang’e-3 moon lander early Dec. 15, 2013. Screenshot taken from the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing. Credit: CCTV

The stunning feat was broadcast on China’s state run CCTV using images transmitted to Earth from cameras mounted on the Chang’e-3 lander and aimed directly at the rear of the departing moon buggy.

Watch this YouTube video from CCTV showing the separation of ‘Yutu’ from the lander:

The scene was reminiscent of NASA’s Mars Sojourner rover driving of the Mars Pathfinder lander back in 1997.

Chinese space engineers based at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) carefully extended a pair of ramps out from the lander in a complex process, drove Yutu onto the ramps and then gently lowered them onto the moon’s soil.

China’s Change’-3 mission had just safely soft landed on the Moon hours only earlier on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 9:11 p.m. Beijing time, 8:11 EST at the Sinus Iridum region, or Bay of Rainbows.

China thus became only the 3rd country in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on Earth’s nearest neighbor after the United States and the Soviet Union.

A video grab shows China’s first moon rover, Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separating from Chang’e-3 moon lander early Dec. 15, 2013. The six-wheeled rover separated from the lander early on Sunday, several hours after the Chang’e-3 probe soft-landed on the lunar surface. Credit: Xinhua

It’s been nearly four decades since the prior lunar landing was accomplished by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 sample return spacecraft.

Read my detailed account of the Chang’e-3 landing on Dec. 14 – here.

1st post landing image transmitted from the Moon’s surface by China’s Chang’e-3 lunar lander on Dec. 14, 2013. Credit: CCTV/post processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

Watch this YouTube video compilation of CCTV’s Dec. 14 landing coverage:

Over 4600 images have already been transmitted by Chang’e-3 in less than a day on the Moon.

Tomorrow, the 120 kg Yutu rover will begin driving in a circle around the 1200 kg lander.

And the pair of lunar explorers will snap eagerly awaited portraits of one another!

The rover and lander are equipped with 8 science instruments multiple cameras, spectrometers, an optical telescope, ground penetrating radar and other sensors to investigate the lunar surface and composition.

The radar instrument installed at the bottom of the rover can penetrate 100 meters deep below the surface to study the Moon’s structure and composition in unprecedented detail, according to Ouyang Ziyuan, senior advisor of China’s lunar probe project, in an interview on CCTV.

China’s Chang’e-3 probe joins NASA’s newly arrived LADEE lunar probe which entered lunar orbit on Oct. 6 following a spectacular night time blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Chang’e-3, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rover and more news.

Ken Kremer

Yutu moves towards drive off ramp still atop the Chang’e-3 lander, shown in this screen shot from early Dec. 15, 2013. Credit: CCTV
Yutu atop the transfer ramp to lunar surface. Credit: CCTV
Yutu descends down the transfer ramp to lunar surface. Credit: CCTV
Image shows the trajectory of the lunar probe Chang’e-3 approaching the landing site on Dec. 14.
China’s first lunar rover separates from Chang’e-3 moon lander early Dec. 15, 2013. Screenshot taken from the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing. Credit: Xinhua
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

View Comments

  • Yes, congrats China, you got a rover to the moon in 2013...United States has 3 on Mars and had humans on the moon before 1970...good job indeed.

    • So tell me, what have you personally contributed to space exploration? Bet you cant even tell your arse from Uranus.

      • What do Layne's personal accomplishments have to do with China's space program? He's simply pointing out that this isn't a groundbreaking achievement, although China should be congratulated on their foray into becoming a space faring nation. Let's just keep a bit of perspective. If China puts taikonauts on Mars, I'll be impressed.

    • I'd just as soon leave the Apollo sites alone for the time being... they should become world heritage sites and protected for future generations.

  • Thank you China (Beijing Aerospace Control Center) for your openness and sharing this fantastic voyage with the world! Congratulations! ????? (Zài zh?ngguó zhùhè) We hope your mission goes well and you continue to share the science and excitement we all expect and feel! WOW!

    • Thanks for sharing your success with us. I hope to be able to follow China's successes in space exploration for years to come.

    • Will never happen, this country has been turned over to anti-science, blood sucking thieves* who think the national treasury is their personal checking account to be spent on wars of choice and oil production. If you want space exploration then discover a Spindletop under Olympus Mons.
      *(that's not a shot at the President, but US politicians in general)

    • I'd much rather spend the ever decreasing U. S. investment in space exploration on unmanned rover or probe programs to Titan, Europa and Enceladus. In the unlikely event NASA's budget ever sees an increase again, then I'm in favor of returning to the Moon. With current investment levels, I fear that manned programs will be the province of China. What a shame.

  • Hopefully, China will become a valuable partner in the international space exploration program. It will take a world effort to create a permanent space station on the moon on which we can build a space port to visit the solar system.

  • Fantastic ,a Giant Leap For China, well done, 10 points out of 10, thank you China for these great pictures and continued success...........

    • Those giant leaps will be measured in metres, not that obsolete crap used by Americans. No wonder the US keeps sinking into the abyss.

  • "She says 'it's a beautiful moon'
    I say 'not if you've been there.' "
    - The Killer Whales 1983

    Good job China.

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