Executive Intelligence Review


Chang’e-4 Rover Yutu-2 Is Off on Its Lunar Exploration

Jan. 4, 2018 (EIRNS)—About 12 hours after the landing of the Chang’e-4 spacecraft on the Moon, the Yutu-2 rover rolled off the lander to start its mission of exploration. The camera on the lander took a photo of Yutu-2 on lunar soil. (The name chosen for the rover, from 42,945 entries, recognizes that it is the successor to the Chinese rover a hemisphere away, on the near side of the Moon.) The rover will next take a photo of the lander, and then explore until Jan. 12, when the two-week lunar night sets in. The rover will then fold its solar panels to provide a “blanket” to keep it warm while it is dormant, waiting for the next lunar day. At 140 kg it is the lightest lunar rover in history, which was made possible by advances in technology, Chinese scientists explained. It is designed to travel 10 km and operate for three months.

An article today in Science & Technology Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese Science and Technology Ministry, describes the challenges in landing Chang’e-4 on the Moon’s far side, and the care that was taken before setting the rover out on its course. The spacecraft hovered at about 100 meters, so that cameras could identify obstacles to avoid. The landing site was not chosen by mission control engineers, but through autonomous guidance on the spacecraft. Although the communication delay between Chang’e-4 and Earth is only 60 seconds, the precision needed for the landing required quick decisions, so the spacecraft had to make its own decision where to land. The article reports that the required autonomous landing “raised China’s spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control technology to a new level.”

The preparations needed for the separation of the rover from the lander included testing the relay satellite communication “bridge,” measuring the environmental parameters, testing the state of the equipment, and determining the angle of incidence of the Sun. “The conditions for the separation of the two spacecraft were confirmed by final inspection,” the article reports. The rover is equipped with a panoramic camera, ground-penetrating radar, an imaging spectrometer to study the composition of the lunar surface, and an analyser to observe how the solar wind interacts with the Moon.

After Yutu-2 successfully rolled off the lander, the lander photographed the rover and its tracks in the lunar soil.