Yesterday, the Inquisitr reported that China’s Chang’e-4 robotic mission had begun its science operations on the far side of the moon. The mission, which consists of two lunar probes — a rover and a lander — plus a relay satellite, was slated to beam back a set of new photos today. The photos were all taken at the landing site, inside the 116-mile-wide Von Karman Crater within the massive South Pole‐Aitken Basin.
The new pics are finally here, and showcase a glorious 360-degree panorama of the touchdown location. The stunning image was released by the China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) — the official designation of the Chang’e program.
In addition, the Queqiao relay satellite also sent back adorable portraits of the Chang’e-4 lander and the Yutu-2 rover — which photographed each other sometime during the last 24 hours, notes AP News.
The fresh snapshots from the lunar far side reached engineers at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center at 3:47 a.m. EST, and were unveiled earlier today on the Xinhua website. According to the Chinese media outlet, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) officially declared the Chang’e-4 mission “a complete success,” stating that the scientific instruments on board the rover and the lander — switched on yesterday for test operations — are all working well.
“The lander, its rover, and the relay satellite are all in a stable condition. They have reached the predetermined engineering goals, right now they are getting into the stage of scientific searches,” said CNSA director Zhang Kejian.
The Chang’e-4 lander carrying the Yutu-2 “Jade Rabbit” rover touched down on the lunar far side on January 3, becoming the first spacecraft to land on the so-called “dark” side of the moon — the side that always faces away from Earth. Three days later, the rover was placed into a five-day standby mode to protect it from the high temperatures on the lunar surface.
With nap time finally over, the Yutu-2 rover and Chang’e-4 lander dove right back in to work on January 10. The lander began by photographing the landing site, and produced a series of 80 images, reports Business Insider.
These snapshots were later stitched together by CNSA scientists to make up the 360-degree view of the Chang’e-4 touchdown location. The photos capture a distant view of the Yutu-2 rover, with the crater-filled lunar landscape unfolding in the background.
“From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling,” said Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China — and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang’e-4.
At the same time, the panorama also shows the edges of some of the science instruments aboard the Chang’e-4 lander itself, remarks Space. The spacecraft can be seen in its entirety in its portrait photo, taken by the Yutu-2 rover.
A cylindrical projection of the panorama, released together with the 360-degree version, gives a clearer view of the lunar topography — and is currently hailed as the most detailed of the newly publicized images. The photo is available via CLEP.
Aside from the new photos, China revealed a 12-minute video clip of the Chang’e-4 moon landing, created from more than 4,700 images taken by the lunar lander. The footage shows the spacecraft adjusting its altitude, speed, and pitch — and avoiding obstacles — during the descent to the lunar surface.
A section of the video, uploaded to YouTube by New China TV, is available below.
Another video, originally posted on the Weibo social media platform, was shared on Twitter by GB Times journalist Andrew Jones. The footage showcases the Yutu-2 rover rolling on the surface of the moon.
Next up for the Chang’e-4 mission is to kick off the scientific research pertaining to the uncharted terrain on the lunar far side.
“The rugged terrain will pose great challenges for planning the route of the rover,” said Li.