Lunar rover leaves first 'footprint' on Moon's far side

The Yutu-2 driving on the surface of the far side of the Moon after descending from the Chang'e-4 lunar probe on Thursday.
The Yutu-2 driving on the surface of the far side of the Moon after descending from the Chang'e-4 lunar probe on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • China's lunar rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, has left the first "footprint" from a man-made spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.

The rover touched the lunar surface at 10.22pm on Thursday, leaving a trace on the loose lunar soil. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent back to Earth via the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

Launched on Dec 8 last year, the Chang'e-4 lunar probe, comprising the lander and the rover, landed on the far side of the Moon on Thursday morning.

The feat has been hailed as a milestone in the history of space exploration and the country's quest to reach the top of this field.

Since the Moon revolves around Earth at the same rate it rotates, the same side always faces Earth. The other side, most of which cannot be seen from Earth, is called the far side, or dark side, because most of it is uncharted.

After the successful landing, experts verified the condition of Queqiao, the environment parameters of the landing area, the condition of the probe's equipment as well as the angle of incoming sunshine to prepare for the separation of the lander and the rover.

At 3.07pm, experts sent the separation order to the probe via Queqiao. After receiving the order, Yutu-2, atop the probe, extended its solar panel, stretched out its mast and started to drive slowly to the transfer mechanism, said the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.

 

The transfer mechanism unlocked as planned, with one side reaching the Moon's surface, allowing the rover to descend onto the surface from the slope.

Yutu-2 is capable of enduring vacuum pressure, intense radiation and extreme temperatures. It is equipped with a panoramic camera, an infrared imaging spectrometer and radar measurement devices to obtain images of the Moon's surface and detect lunar soil and structure.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2019, with the headline 'Lunar rover leaves first 'footprint' on Moon's far side'. Print Edition | Subscribe