Today was a big day for the 308-pound Chinese rover that landed on the far side of the moon on January 3. The intrepid lunar explorer has awoken from a five-day slumber and has begun its science operations, reports Xinhua Net.
According to the Chinese media outlet, the spacecraft “has started carrying out a series of scientific research tasks involving multiple countries and organizations.” The announcement comes from the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), which launched the rover to the lunar far side along with a 2,600-pound lander.
Dubbed Yutu-2, which literally means “Jade Rabbit-2” in Chinese, the rover had been in standby mode since Saturday, notes Phys.org.
“Afternoon nap is over, waking up and getting moving,” the Yutu-2 team posted on the rover’s Weibo account.
‘Nap’ Time For The Yutu-2 Rover
Part of the Chang’e-4 mission, the Yutu-2 rover touched down on the so-called “dark” side of the moon together with its lander companion. The two probes descended inside the Von Karman Crater within the South Pole‐Aitken Basin, thereby becoming the first spacecraft to land on the lunar far side.
The rover successfully separated from the lander about 12 hours after touchdown and began trekking the dusty floor of the 116-mile-wide crater, making its first tracks on the lunar surface, the Inquisitr reported last week. The robot remained active until the weekend, when it went into standby mode in order to shield its electronics from the scorching temperatures found at its landing site, announced the CNSA.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) January 10, 2019
Although the lunar far side is commonly referred to as the “dark” side of the moon, it actually gets plenty of light, explains Space. In fact, the moniker only refers to the fact that this side of the moon never faces the Earth, since our planet’s natural satellite is tidally locked.
In reality, the far side of the moon receives its fair share of sunlight as the moon spins around its axis. As a result, it can get heated to up to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
“Yutu-2 was placed in standby mode between January 6 and January 10 to prevent damage from direct solar radiation,” journalist Andrew Jones writes in an article for GB Times.
Yutu-2 has awoken from its 'noon nap' (to protect against high temperatures) and is looking to do some exercise, according to its official Weibo account #ChangE4 #Yutu2 Source: https://t.co/bSLRcaURUO pic.twitter.com/HAQxkMsGz1
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 10, 2019
Back To Business
Now that its five-day hiatus is over, the Yutu-2 moon rover has restarted its activities.
This is not the first Chinese robot to rove on the surface of the moon. Six years ago, its predecessor — the Yutu rover, part of China’s Chang’e-3 mission — successfully landed on the near side of the moon, touching down in the northern part of Mare Imbrium, the Inquisitr previously reported.
Just like the Yutu-2 rover, the original “Jade Rabbit” also took a similar nap break, shows a 2013 report from Xinhua Net.
With the rover back in action, the CNSA was able to switch on the science instruments on board the Yutu-2. The robot is currently tasked with exploring the front side of the lander and will even snap a photo of the craft, due to be released tomorrow, states Jones.
Yutu-2 rover reawakens after midday nap to continue Chang'e-4 objectives https://t.co/vpDlxOgdmE
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 10, 2019
Since the Yutu-2 rover is now awake and ready for science, the Chang’e-4 lander will begin its scheduled operations as well, Xinhua Net points out. Both spacecraft have activated their instruments, which include a German-built neutron radiation detector found on board the Chang’e lander and a Swedish neutral atom detector fitted on the Yutu rover.
The Chang’e-4 rover-lander duo is also expected to relay a series of images on January 11, captured by the lander’s Terrain Camera (TCAM) and by the Panoramic Camera (PCAM) on board the Yutu rover.
“Their data will be transmitted to the ground via the relay satellite Queqiao (‘Magpie Bridge’), which was launched in May, 2018, to set up the communication link between Earth and the moon’s far side.”
Named after the pet rabbit of the Chinese moon Goddess, Chang’e, the Yutu-2 rover carries four science payloads. These are the PCAM imager, the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN) provided by Sweden. These instruments will help the robot take exquisite photos of its surroundings, analyze the composition of the lunar surface, peer under the crust of the moon at depths of hundreds of meters and reveal how solar wind interacts with the surface of the moon.