The Chinese rover Yutu 2 is about to “wake up” on the other side of the Moon, after having suffered another frigid night. The vehicle has already traveled more than 700 meters since it arrived more than two years ago.
On January 3, 2019, China made history by delivering a smooth first rover to the “far side of the moon” as part of its Chang ‘e-4 mission. The lander and its rover, dubbed Yutu 2 – landed inside the Von Karman crater, a formation found in the South Pole basin-Aitken, the largest impact crater in the Solar System.
The two machines went into a “dormant state” on April 19 just before sunset, wiping from temperatures as low as minus 180 degrees Celsius. The rover and its lander will wake up from their hibernation in a few days after our star rises on the Von Kármán crater.
The rover plays overtime
Since arriving, Yutu 2 has been heading northwest from its landing point. So far, it has traveled a total of 708.9 meters, relying on its panoramic cameras, lunar penetrating radar (LPR) and a visible and near-infrared imaging spectrometer to collect data.
The six-wheeled vehicle, which weighs just 140 kilograms, has already isolated a number of distinct layers of rock beneath the lunar surface that may have been created by volcanism and asteroid impacts.
Yutu 2, which is already well beyond its nominal lifespan of 90 Earth days, also recently stumbled upon a strange little stone with a very elongated shape and geologically very young.
According to the researchers, it could be an impact ejecta from the nearby Finsen crater, rather than just an exposed rock. The mission team plans to analyze it further with the rover’s visible and near infrared (VNIS) imaging spectrometer, which detects light scattered or reflected off materials to reveal their composition. These data will make it possible to probe its origin.
Then the rover will continue its journey northeast. The objective will be to identify basaltic rock, the analyzes of which could provide a better understanding of the history of the local lunar surface.
Finally, remember that Yutu 2 is not the only Chinese rover to progress. In a few days, the Zhurong rover, which is part of the country’s first interplanetary expedition, will indeed attempt to land on Mars in a vast rocky plain called Utopia Planitia. If successful, China will be the second only country to land smoothly on Mars after the United States.