Chinese rover & lander beam back Portraits with China’s Flag shining on Moon’s Surface

Yutu rover emblazoned with Chinese Flag as seen by the Chang’e-3 lander on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013. Notice the rover tire tracks left behind in the loose lunar topsoil. Credit: China Space
Story updated[/caption]

China’s ambitious lunar space exploration program achieved another stunning success Sunday night, Dec 15, when the countries inaugural Chang’e-3 lunar lander and rover beamed back portraits of one another snapped from the Moon’s surface – that also proudly displayed the brilliant red Chinese national flag shining atop an extraterrestrial body for the very first time in human history.

“I announce the complete success of the Chang’e-3 mission,” said Ma Xingrui, chief commander of China’s lunar program, during a live CCTV broadcast as the portraits were shown to a worldwide audience from huge screens mounted at the mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on hand to personally witness the momentous events in real time.

A wave of cheers and high fives rocked around mission control as the startling imagery of the ‘Yutu’ rover and Chang’e-3 lander nestled atop the Moon’s soil in the Bay of Rainbows was received around 11:42 p.m. Sunday, local Beijing time, 10:42 a.m. EST, via China’s own deep space tracking network.

Xi Jinping’s presence was a clear demonstration of China’s confidence in its lunar team and the importance of this space spectacular to China’s prestige and technological prowess.

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

China’s ‘Yutu’ rover had just rolled majestically onto the Moon’s soil hours earlier on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 4:35 a.m. Beijing local time – barely seven hours after the Chang’e-3 mothership touched down atop the lava filled plains of the Bay of Rainbows on Dec. 14.

The rover’s wheels left behind noticeable tire tracks as it drove across the loose lunar topsoil.

Read my earlier detailed accounts of the Dec. 15 drive by Yutu onto the lunar surface illustrated with an extensive photo gallery – here; and of the stunning Dec. 14 landing – here.

CCTV showed China’s President gleefully shaking hands and extending congratulations with many members of the mission team at BACC after seeing the high resolution photos of the Chang’e-3 rover emblazoned with China’s flag for himself.

Chang'e 3 lander as seen by the rover Yutu on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013.  Credit: China Space
Chang’e 3 lander as seen by the rover Yutu on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013. Credit: China Space

It’s been nearly four decades since the prior lunar landing was accomplished by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 sample return spacecraft back in 1976.

America’s last visit to the Moon’s surface occurred with the manned Apollo 17 landing mission – crewed by astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt , who coincidentally ascended from the lunar soil on Dec. 14, 1972 – exactly 41 years ago.

“The Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission [responsible for China’s space program] sends congratulations to all the staff that participated in the successful completion of the mission and China’s first soft landing on the moon,” said the Chinese vice premier Ma Kai during the CCTV broadcast.

“The rover and lander are working properly and reaching the goals set.”

“Chang’e-3 is China’s most complicated space mission,” said Kai. “This shows China is dedicated to the peaceful uses of space.”

“There are many more complicated and difficult tasks ahead.”

Chang'e-3 lander imaged by the rover Yutu on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013.  Note landing ramp at bottom. Credit: CCTV
Chang’e-3 lander imaged by the rover Yutu on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013. Note landing ramp at bottom. Credit: CCTV

Indeed so far the Chang’e-3 mission has been primarily a highly successful demonstration of the extremely challenging engineering required to accomplish China’s first lunar landing.

Now the science phase can truly begin.

Over 4600 images have already been transmitted by Chang’e-3 since the Dec. 14 touchdown.

After rolling all six wheels into the dirt, Yutu – which translates as Jade Rabbit – drove to a location about nine meters north of the lander, according to CCTV commentators.

The rover then turned around so that the red Chinese flag emblazoned on the front side would be facing the lander’s high resolution color cameras for the eagerly awaited portraits of one another.

Yutu is nearly the size of a golf cart. It measures about 1.5 m x 1 m on its sides and stands about 1.5 m (nearly 5 feet) tall – nearly human height.

The 120 kg Yutu rover will now begin driving in a circle around the right side of the 1200 kg Chang’e-3 lander – for better illumination – at a distance ranging from 10 to 18 meters.

The rover will snap further photos of the lander as it traverses about from 5 specific locations – showing the front, side and back – over the course of the next 24 hours.

See the accompanying graphic – written in Chinese.

Yutu and the Chang'e 3 lander are scheduled to take photos of each other soon from locations outlined in this artists concept.  Credit: China Space
Yutu and the Chang’e 3 lander are scheduled to take photos of each other soon from locations outlined in this artists concept. Credit: China Space

Thereafter Yutu will depart the landing site forever and begin its own lunar trek that’s expected to last at least 3 months.

So the rover and lander will soon be operating independently.

They are equipped with eight science instruments including 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.

A UV camera will study the earth and its interaction with solar wind and a telescope will study celestial objects. This is done during the lunar day.

It will also investigate the moon’s natural resources for use by potential future Chinese astronauts.

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
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 two probes are now almost fully operational. Most of the science instruments are working including at least three cameras and the ground penetrating radar.

And although they have survived the harsh lunar environment thus far, they still face massive challenges. They must prove that they can survive the extremely cold lunar night and temperature fluctuations of more than 300 degrees Celsius – a great engineering challenge.

The rover will hibernate during the two week long lunar night.

A radioisotopic heater will provide heat to safeguard the rovers computer and electronics – including the alpha particle X-ray instrument on the rover’s robotic arm.

The Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridum region, is located in the upper left portion of the moon as seen from Earth. You can see the landing site with your own eyes.

Chang’e 3 targeted lunar landing site in the Bay of Rainbows or Sinus Iridum
Chang’e 3 targeted lunar landing site in the Bay of Rainbows or Sinus Iridum

It was imaged in high resolution by China’s prior lunar mission – the Chang’e-2 lunar orbiter and is shown in graphics herein.

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

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
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

54 Replies to “Chinese rover & lander beam back Portraits with China’s Flag shining on Moon’s Surface”

  1. Fantastic effort from China and thank you for these super pictures of your great success for the first soft landing on the moon in almost 40 years. well done and we eagerly await more images beamed back from the lunar surface…..great

    1. It’d be great if they did a little more PR around the mission though. Low res pictures was all you could expect in the 60s but it’s a bit disappointing nowadays.

  2. can it find the usa’s old manned lunar landers to finally prove they put a man on the moon ……taps watch

  3. Interesting to see the darker material where the landing leg landed.
    Is it cosmic radiation that makes the lunar top soil more lighter in colour?

    1. I suppose everyone now knows that the Soviet Union landed men on the sun, far surpassing the mood landings. The Kremlin leadership was smart enough to plan the landing at night when it would be cool enough.

      1. The old ones are the best…

        BTW the Chinese lander was obviously filmed in a secret studio on the moon in a set made to resemble the Gobi desert.

        No wonder there are so many conspiracy theorists; it’s so easy to come up with a half-baked scenario, write a book, sell it to other conspiracy loonies and get rich.

      2. perhaps you are getting just a bit unhinged, or losing your train of thought……the secret studio would not be on the moon…for pretty obvious reasons….the studio would be on earth.

      3. Go to Wikipedia and look up ‘irony’. That’s I R O N Y. Think you can handle that?

      4. Irony? Like so called “educated” people, who hate people for questioning everything in search of truth?

        I’m shocked so called “educated” people would hate conspiracy theorists for questioning stuff. Especially since “education” is the direct result of questioning & investigation.

        Some of the greatest minds ever were “conspiracy theorists”. If it wasn’t for those people questioning the truth, you would not be “educated”. Education is truth, not acceptance. Some of those people risked their lives for your knowledge.

        Next time you hate somebody for bring brave enough to question truth you should kick yourself in the ass, sit down, and shut your “educated” ass up and you might learn something. Like maybe your not as smart as you think.

        If I was the “conspiracy theorist” who questioned the “educated” earth is flat and discovered it wasn’t, so I could have told them the same.

        How is that for I.R.O.N.Y?

      5. Conspiracy theorists are not respected because it takes zero effort or research to dispute everything. Just as you have spent zero effort researching the Myth of the Flat Earth.

      6. By the way… Wikipedia has “hypocrite” too.. just in case you wanna look that up. 🙂

      7. lol yeah! or how about the “radio signal origin tracing proof of human on moon”. Don’t those idiot conspiracy people know anything? Those stupid poo poo heads ruin everything. Always questioning, searching, and exposing stuff to find truth. Never accepting what the “smart people” know.

        Those poor super smart geniuses way back knew “the world was flat”. If those stupid crazy idiot conspiracy kooks had just shut up and listen to the “smart people” it still would be flat.

        Bastards ruin everything!

      8. you Americans are so funny. if US can send a rover to Mars, why can’t the Chinese send a rover to the moon? it is not technically impossible, actually it is totally understandable that China can possess such technology after they manage to send manned space shuttle orbiting the earth. If you have to doubt the Chinese rover was actually filmed in Gobi desert, then I have the reason to doubt all the US Mars expedition was filmed in Nevada desert. And guess what, I have more credibility than you, cause USSR can prove the possibility of moon landing but no one can confirm the possibility of landing on Mars when only the US claimed to manage it and US could play all tricks they want.

  4. I keep reading that it landed in the Bay of Rainbows. But the coordinates I’ve seen are 19.51N and 44.12W. If those coordinates are correct, then that put Yutu well out into Mare Imbrium.

  5. Unless I’m mistaken, the Yutu mission is being shot somewhere in the Gobi desert and the Apollo missions were staged in Nevada(?). So, can’t do.

      1. LOL! Sorry about that.. it’s just that there are SO many out there who claim to this day that we did NOT send men to the moon! Hard to believe…. eh?

      2. So who are the men we sent to mars transmitting signals back and forth? That is your logic, right?

      3. That’s a pretty broad claim so early in the mission. Specifically who is or can trace the radio signals back to their origin to confirm that they are in fact from the moon? Be specific.

      4. From

        The European Space Agency’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, is assisting China in getting Chang’e 3 to the moon and then down onto the lunar landscape.

        “ESOC support for the Chang’e-3 lunar landing, which is currently scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14 in the afternoon, will initially be during the powered lunar descent phase, where the ESA Deep Space terminal in New Norcia, Western Australia, will measure the Doppler shift as a secondary station,” Erik Soerensen, head of the ground facilities external services section at ESOC, wrote in an email.

        “The landing and rover operations on the moon will be commanded via two Chinese tracking stations at Kashi, in the far West of China, and at Jiamusi, in the Northeast,” Soerensen added. The New Norcia station, he said, will also record the Chang’e-3’s radio signals during descent and landing, which will help the Chinese to reconstruct the trajectory for future reference.

        After the lander and rover are on the surface, Soerensen said, the New Norcia stations will be complemented with the ESA Deep Space station in Cebreros, west of Madrid, Spain, to provide Delta Differential One-way Range (Delta-DOR) interferometry — an array of instruments that act together to provide higher resolution accuracy — and position determination of the Chang’e 3 lander.

        “With Delta-DOR technology, one can compute locations with extreme accuracy,” Soerensen said.

        Specific enough?

      5. Pretty impressive verbiage but Aqua4U made the following statement

        “‘The radio signals can be traced back to their origin.. they are coming from the Moon”.I see where you are coming from but how does your impressive comment confirm his statement. Remember he said that the radio signals can be “traced” back to their origin, the moon. “Can be traced” as in…. ” follow the course or trail of: trace a wounded deer; tracing missing persons”.

      6. It’s really simple. Three tracking stations (Australia, Spain and China) point their directional antennae at the moon and receive the signals from the lander. Then, by triangulating the precise directions, they determine to a high degree of accuracy the location of the radio transmissions on the moon’s surface.

        Of course if you think the whole thing is a multi-national conspiracy, you won’t believe any of this. Personally I think all the conspiracy theorists are NSA operatives. Amazing the degree of international co-operation possible when these governments want to cover up space stories…

      7. After appreciating your tour de force of wit for a moment, and acknowledging its devastating implications, let us now move on to more serious matters.

        You should realise, Sarah Jane, that the alleged antipathy between these governments is entirely illusory.
        At the very least, you will know, I hope, that the Soviet Revolution in 1918 was entirely funded by Kuhn Loeb, based in NYC. The Federal Reserve, obviously, controls the US and all of its institutions, whether allegedly scientific, eg NASA, or not. They are the sole source of all funding. It is not too difficult therefore to imagine that the third communist revolution in this trilogy was similarly funded by the central banks, and the eleven families which own them.
        You will also be aware that there is an agenda to create a one world government; such luminaries as GHW Bush, and indeed the Pope, have referred to this. Thus collaboration between these blocs in exploiting their citizenry is a primary and fundamental expectation. This is partly what we are seeing played out here.

        Let us just imagine that the MI complexes, and those who own them in the various power blocs, wish to extract countless trillions of currency units from their citizens. As corporations, not nations, this is their sole purpose. The best way to do this is to conspire to create a scenario where one bloc is about to destroy another. In such a world, citizens are frightened into giving their explicit support to defensive measures. An endless stream of rockets, bombers, aircraft carriers, satellites, and armies were the result of this strategiic master-stroke. A similar scenario played out between Oceania, Westasia, and Eastasia in Orwell’s 1984. You may have heard of it, and possibly even read it.
        The focus of power is shifting eastwards at the moment; thus China is being set up as the new global superpower to replace the US; which has been bled dry in anticipation. Part of the packaging is to make the Chinese look very clever and technologically advanced.
        Patriotic fervour is such that the Chinese people will be happy to fund this smoke and mirrors event. But the only winners here are the international bankers, as per usual.
        In conclusion, please be aware that messages claiming to come from the Moon can quite easily be coming from a satellite in orbit around the earth. Or even by co-ordinating the interactions of the various “listening stations”.

        But you knew that already, didn’t you?

      8. The Illuminati… you didn’t mention the Illuminati!

        Your knowledge of technology is derisory. A satellite in orbit of the Earth (and I’m amazed you even allow that is possible) will have a pronounced doppler frequency shift and will obviously not be at a distance. Doh!

      9. since you so deeply believe that tracking station data represents rock solid “proof”…..consider the implications of the following quote….”the new Nasa Lunar satellite called LADEE has NOT detected any effects In the Lunar atmosphere that can be attributed to Chang’e 3. No increase in
        dust was observed by LDEX, no change was seen by UVS, no propulsion
        products were measured by NMS”

      10. Wow! that is so awsome. But, I must of missed the part stating ” we can, will, and have traced all radio signals from earth to the moon thus showing when and how it was sent, and the human transmitting it” Maybe I’m just dumb common folk.

      11. That’s a pretty broad claim so early in the mission.So inquiring minds would like to know specifically who is tracing the radio signals back to their supposed origin to confirm that they are in fact coming from the moon? And I am serious so be specific.

      12. You already posted this. You appear to have the attention span of a lobotomised tadpole.

      13. if you had taken the time to look at the time stamp you would seen that my post above was actually a reply to Aqua4U more than 2 days ago. And could not have been a reply to your comment about a day ago. Which means there likely is some kind of glitch in this software.
        Amazing how quickly you desend to the level of name calling. And just for the record, how long IS the attention span of a lobotomized tadpole?

      14. You haven’t refuted any of the technical info I’ve posted. Come on, let’s see the awesome extent of your education.

      15. WOW! That’s amazing! and just how exactly does that prove ” man” was there? Do the radio signals say “i was brought here by a human being”? Can only a flesh and blood human being transmit a radio signal from the moon or could say.. oh i don’t know.. one of those.. machiney roboty thingy’s?

  6. Those pics are all poor resolution. Is the Chinese Space Program going to release the high-rez photos?

  7. The mechanism used to place the rover on the lunar soil is some trick pony, eh? Although it’s ‘nice’ to take ‘family portrait’ images of each other (Lander and rover) and have the rover drive around the lander.. I think exploring the crater in front of the rover should be the first goal. Q: Why retrieve an asteroid from deep space when there are millions of them laying around on the Moon?

    1. I guess one could argue that the asteroids are a bit spread around and it would be hard to sort through which dust spec is from the Moon and which is not. Besides, I get the feeling that the decision about going after an asteroid was primarily driven by the desire to ditch whatever the other administration was trying to do and with this kind of motives you won’t make them change. However, now that NASA is sort of pursuing a plan let’s just stick with it even though in my opinion the Moon would have been a better choice. Constantly changing the goal is even worse.

      Kind regards,

      1. I think the decision to go to an asteroid was solid and good.. then came new info there is water on the moon! THAT SHOULD have been a game changer! Remember.. the only thing that is permanent, is change… go with the flow? or what you know! I say… Lets send robotics to explore and set up materials extraction and processing equipment. Find some ice… get a supply of air and fuel stored and get on with the deeds! Lets create new commodities and marketplaces.. the old ones are stale and corrupt!

    2. If you haven’t seen Robert Zubrins view on that asteroid retrieval subject (and still, here he’s really really holding back!):

      Even the Chinese do much more for less than NASA today, and they are far more numerous…

    3. An asteroid that has not been involved in an impact event would be more pristine. So there’s that. Plus the techniques learned for intercepting asteroids in deep space have more yield for missions involving deflecting Earth impactors. Despite your feelings there are definite reasons for going ahead with a mission of this nature besides hard science… Like saving the Earth from destruction.

      1. Pristine would be good. But I’m thinking in terms of numbers, that is to say, there are literally millions, no billions upon billions of asteroid and cometary fragments on Luna and studying how they fuse with known elements is a BONUS for those studies. What could be done with a glacier sized chunk of buried cometary ice? What elements would be created through the fusion created by NiFe meteor impact? We might even find elements/compounds that are radiation absorbing or some other unexpected but useful deep space ap.? All I can leave with is that doing it right, like a good paint job… is all in the prep!

  8. One thing I am wondering is why did they land when it was almost full moon?

    This way they only have 7 days of sunlight before it gets dark for 14 days.

    However I am very curious about a sun set and a sun raise they can now record from the surface of the moon.

  9. Chinese rover & lander beam back Portraits with China’s Flag shining on Moon’s Surface
    I watched Sputnik go over. I watched with pride when an American first stepped on the moon. And now after 40 years of patiently waiting for my country to return to the Moon and billions of dollars later, What have we got to show for it? What did we do at the International space station? A bunch of photo ops? China has pulled our economy out from under us and has blown our doors off. I am so ashamed of my country, I want to cry. Even Japan, India, Russia and the ESA have outdone us. NASA has been so busy saving the environment and being politically correct, that we’ve lost our country. When we write to NASA, they just ignore us. Why? The Chinese bought our Space Shuttle for scrap metal! Where has my country gone? We were once a proud people that led the world into the future. We should have had a man (or woman) on Mars twenty years ago. We need another JFK to lead our country forward again.

  10. This is really awesome! But the moon certainly looks like an absolutely boring place. Desolate.

Comments are closed.