China’s Farside Mission Reawakens to Continue Exploration

China’s Chang’e-4 lander as viewed by the Yutu-2 rover. Credit: CNSA/CLEP.

On the farside of the Moon, China’s Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover have resumed work for the 15th lunar day after “sleeping” during the extremely cold night. According to the Xinhua News Agency the lander woke up at 6:57 a.m. Tuesday, February 18 (Beijing time), and the rover at 5:55 p.m. Monday, February 17. Reportedly, both were in normal working order.

The wheeled Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover has traveled more than 367 meters (1204 feet) with a plan to drive northwest and then southwest to continue its scientific exploration.

The Chang’e-4 mission was launched on December 8, 2018, making the first-ever soft landing within the Von Kármán crater, a large lunar impact feature that is located in the southern hemisphere on the farside of the Moon.

China’s next Moon exploration mission is slated to be the Chang’e-5, a multi-staged effort to rocket lunar samples back to Earth later this year. According to Chinese news services, Chang’e-5 is comprised of four parts including the orbiter, ascender, lander, and Earth reentry module. If successful, this robotic spacecraft would attempt the first lunar sample return to Earth in over 40 years.

The former Soviet Union successfully executed three robotic sample return missions:  Luna 16 returned a small sample (101 grams) from Mare Fecunditatis in September 1970; in February 1972, Luna 20 returned 55 grams of soil from the Apollonius highlands region; and Luna 24 retrieved 170.1 grams of lunar samples from the Moon’s Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis) for return to Earth in August 1976.

The last samples from the Moon to reach Earth came via the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

Portions of this article were provided by Leonard David’s Inside Outer Space.