Walk Beside China’s Moon Rover In Best Chang’e-3 Mission Pictures Ever

It’s been just over a year since China wowed the world with the first soft Moon landing in almost 40 years. The Chang’e-3 robotic lander made it all the way to Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) on Dec. 14, 2013, quickly deploying the Yutu rover for a spin.

Mission updates have been sparse in recent months, but the Planetary Society and a forum on Unmanned Spaceflight recently pointed out a new image archive. These pictures are so high-definition, it’s almost as good as being on the Moon beside the rover.

While some of the images are familiar to followers of the mission, what makes the image archive stick out is how high-definition many of them are.

China’s Yutu rover scoots around on the Moon in this undated photo. The mission began in December 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

A few great shots have been sent back from the surface, including a set from January that was combined into a 360-degree panorama by Marco Di Lorenzo and Universe Today’s Ken Kremer. But this archive contains a wealth of them.

The lander/rover team made it to the surface last year equipped with high-definition video cameras, prepared to catch some of the first new views of the lunar surface from close up since the Apollo robotic/human and Soviet robotic moon landing era of the 1960s and 1970s.

While Chinese officials reportedly said the rover would last three months and the lander a year, difficulties quickly cropped up.

Chang’e-3 viewed from the Yutu lunar rover. The mission began in December 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Shortly before Yutu entered a planned hibernation for its second lunar night (about two weeks on Earth) in January, a technical problem was reported that was later identified as a problem with its solar panel.

A “control circuit malfunction”, according to the Xinhua news agency, left the rover at risk of not waking up after that second hibernation. The mast it controlled was supposed to lower and protect some of the rover’s sensitive electronics. Yutu survived the night, but was left unable to move through the third lunar day.

According to the Planetary Society (based on Chinese news media reports), there are no current status updates for Yutu, but Chang’e-3 is still working a year after the landing.

The Yutu rover leaves the Chang’e-3 lunar lander in December 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
The Chang’e-3 mission’s view of lunar rocks. The mission began in December 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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