China’s Rover Checks out that Weird Cube on the Moon. Surprise! It’s a Rock.

Back in early December 2021, China’s Yutu 2 rover made headlines when it spied what looked like a curious cube-shaped object on the Moon’s surface. Of course, speculations ran rampant. And it didn’t help matters any when the China National Space Administration (CNSA) nicknamed the object the “mystery hut.”

An update today from Yutu’s cameras reveals the true nature of this object. Yup, it’s just a rock. And not very cube-shaped, either.

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China’s Tianwen-1 Spacecraft Took a Selfie Using a Tiny, Secondary Spacecraft

Remember how China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft released a remote camera to take a picture of itself during its flight to Mars, back in late 2020? Now in Mars orbit, Tianwen-1 has done it again, releasing another mini remote camera. Except this time, the planet Mars is part of the view.

The images are stunning.

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China’s First Space Station Crew is Back From Orbit

On Friday, Sept. 17th, three Chinese astronauts returned safely from space following a three-month stay aboard the new Tiangong space station. This was a major milestone for the Chinese Manned Space (CMS) program, which beats its previous record for the longest crewed mission to space. Whereas the Shenzhou 11 mission (2016) lasted 33 days, the crew of Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming spent a total of 92 days in orbit.

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Chang’e-5 Returned an Exotic Collection of Moon Rocks

Scientists have begun studying the samples returned from the Moon by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in December 2020, and a group of researchers presented their first findings at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) last week.

“The Chang’e-5 samples are very diverse, and includes both local and exotic materials, including some glutenates [sharp, jagged lunar particles], silicas, salts, volcanic glasses, and impact glasses, along with different minerals and different rock types,” said Yuqi Qian, a PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, during his presentation at the EPSC virtual meeting.

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China Wants to Build a Spaceship That’s Kilometers Long

It’s no secret that China has become a major contender when it comes to spaceflight. In the past twenty years, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) has accomplished some historic firsts. This includes sending astronauts to space, deploying three space stations (as part of the Tiangong program), developing heavy launch vehicles (like the Long March 5), and sending robotic explorers to the far side of the Moon and Mars.

Looking ahead to the next decade and beyond, China is planning on taking even bolder steps to develop its space program. Among the many proposals the country’s leaders are considering for its latest 5-year plan, one involved creating an “ultra-large spacecraft spanning kilometers.” Having this spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) would be a game-changer for China, allowing for long-duration missions and the utilization of space resources.

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Zhurong Finds its Own Parachute on the Surface of Mars

As of July 23, 2021, China’s Mars rover Zhurong has traveled 585 meters across the surface of Mars. And along the way, it’s taking pictures of interesting sights.

Some of the most intriguing recent images from the rover show debris from the rover’s landing. During its drives, the rover came upon the parachute and backshell. The China National Space Administration says as the rover drove south of its landing site, it first “saw” the debris on the horizon with its front obstacle avoidance camera, and then took a closer image (lead image) with its navigation terrain camera.

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New Images of Mars From China’s Rover

On May 14th, 2021, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) achieved another major milestone when the Tianwen-1 lander successfully soft-landed on Mars, making China the second nation in the world to land a mission on Mars and establish communications from the surface. Shortly thereafter, China National Space Agency (CNSA) shared the first images taken by the Tianwen-1 lander.

By May 22nd, 2021, the Zhurong rover descended from its lander and drove on the Martian surface for the first time. Since then, the rover has spent 63 Earth days conducting science operations on the surface of Mars and has traveled over 450 meters (1475 feet). On Friday, July 9th, and again on July 15th, the CNSA released new images of the Red Planet that were taken by the rover as it made its way across the surface.

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Shanghai is About to Open the World’s Largest Astronomy Museum

China has certainly been making its growing power and influence felt in recent years, especially when it comes to the realm of space exploration and science. In the past ten years alone, China has deployed the three space stations with their Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) program, unveiled the Long March 5 heavy launch rocket, and sent robotic missions to the far side of the Moon and the surface of Mars.

Here on Earth, facilities like the Five hundred meter Aperture Space Telescope (FAST) illustrate China’s growing accomplishments in space and astronomy. And on Friday (July 16th), the largest museum in the world dedicated to the study of space – the Shanghai Astronomy Museum – will open its doors. The purpose and design of this museum is to highlight China’s accomplishments in space and astronomy, as well as the country’s future ambitions in space.

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China Releases Sound and Video of its Rover Landing

View of Zhurong rover on Mars

Remember the stunning video of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars? The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) has now released similar video footage from its Zhurong rover, including the sounds recorded as it plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to landing in Utopia Planitia. The CNSA also released sounds of the rover driving off the landing platform.

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