China’s Yutu-2 rover continues its exploration of the moon’s far side as it reached the one-year anniversary of its landing on Friday, Jan. 3.
The day before, the rover completed its 13th lunar day exploring the moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin. Each lunar day lasts for 14 Earth days; the rover hibernates during the frigid two-week lunar nights.
The Xinhua news agency reports Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit 2) has traveled 357.695 meters (1,173.5 ft/391.2 yds) across the lunar surface. The vehicle, which is part of the Chang’e-4 mission, is the first rover to explore the moon’s far side.
Yutu-2 and its lander are communicating with Earth via the Chang’e-4 lunar orbiter. The mission also included two CubeSats that were placed in lunar orbit.
China plans to launch the Chang’e-5 mission by the end of 2020 to bring back soil samples from the lunar surface. The goal is to return at least 2 kg (4.4 lb) of soil from the Mons Rümker region in the northwest section of the moon.
Xinhua reports there are three other moon missions planned in the years ahead:
- Chang’e-7, set for launch in 2023, will carry out comprehensive surveys of the south pole;
- Chang’e-6, scheduled to be launched in 2024, will bring back samples from the lunar south pole; and,
- Chang’e-8, scheduled for launch in 2027, will test technologies to lay the ground work for a research base on the lunar surface.
China expects to conduct crewed missions to a lunar base sometime during the 2030’s.