It’s an exciting time for astronomy! In recent news, China has released hundreds of photos taken by its Yutu rover which shows the surface of the moon in incredible detail. The Yutu rover was the first unmanned probe sent to the moon by China in 2013. This successful mission made China become the third country after the United States and Russia to land on the moon’s surface.
The mission, named Chang’e-3, is China’s first lunar landing mission. It follows the earlier moon-orbiting missions using Chang’e-1 and 2 spacecraft. The missions are named after the moon goddess Chang’e which comes from Chinese mythology. The Yutu rover, meaning Jade Rabbit, is named for the rabbit pet of the Chang’e goddess.
The images were made available on The China National Space Administration’s website. Not only images but video clips and scientific data were also made available for the public to download for free. This previously secretive space program made quite a rare show of openness for China.
The fascinating images show the true color of the moon’s spectacular crust in vivid detail. Even the tracks of the Yutu rover are visible. The first image released to a government run Chinese news outlet Chinanews was a 360-degree panoramic picture put together from six photos.
The photos were put together by photographer Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo and their creative team taken by the Chang’e 3 moon lander as well as its Yutu rover. The images were only enhanced to improve the lighting and uniformity were helped add even more detail. The size of the rover and its color balance was adjusted to show the scale of it driving next to the lander. The team matched the position of the Yutu rover to exactly match with the terrain at each exact location.
The panoramic photo shows the last location of the rover as it begins its journey heading south, away from the landing site. The Yutu rover, which is solar powered, will last at least two months and will continue exploring the Sea of Rains region (Mare Ibrium). The Chang’e 3 Lander will spend at least a year studying the moon’s surface and monitoring the environment.
China has big plans to explore the moon. In 2017 they are planning to launch the Chang’e 5 spacecraft which will land on the moon to collect soil samples and return them back to Earth. In 2018 China plans to land on the farther size of the moon with the Chang’e 4 spacecraft. If successful, this would make China the first country to land of the dark side of the moon.
Even though China hasn’t officially announced it, many specialists think the country wants to put a man on the moon in the near future.