Chinese Land Rover on Moon

Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)
Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

UPDATE: The Yutu rover has rolled out onto the moon.

China successfully soft landed a vehicle on the surface of the moon today, becoming only the third nation to accomplish this feat and the first to do so in 37 years.

The Chang’e-3 lander touched down in Sinus Iridum with its Yutu lunar rover. Yutu will be deployed for a three-month exploration of the surface. The lander and the rover each possess a sophisticated suite of instruments.

Chang’e is named for the Chinese goddess of the moon. Yutu is the jade rabbit kept by the goddess.

Yutu — which measures 1.5 m (4.9 feet) high and weighs 120 kg (260 lb) — is designed to explore a 3-square kilometer area during its three-month mission. The vehicle is equipped with a camera, X-ray spectrometer, infrared spectrometer, and a radar unit that will measure the structure of the lunar soil down to a depth of 30 m (98 feet) and the lunar crust down to several hundred meters.

Yutu will also have the capability to dig into the lunar soil and perform basic analyses of samples. Chinese scientists have equipped the rover with sensors for avoiding objects and the ability to to navigate inclines.

The landing vehicle is equipped with seven instruments and cameras that will study the moon and its environment separately. The payload includes an astronomical telescope with an extreme ultraviolet camera that will be able to observe celestial bodies and study how solar activity affects the ion layer near Earth.

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