How China's Chang'e-3 Moon Rover Yutu Works (Infographic)

Infographic: Details of China's Chang'e-3 moon lander and rover.
China's Chang'e-3 moon lander carries a six-wheeled rover vehicle on its back. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Named for Chang'e, the legendary Chinese goddess who is said to live on the moon, China's Chang'e-3 moon mission involves both a lander vehicle and a small, wheeled rover. China will be the third nation to land a wheeled vehicle on the moon, after the Soviet Union and the United States.

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The moon rover is named Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") for the legendary rabbit that is a lunar companion for the goddess Chang'e. Yutu carries solar panels for electrical power. A mast on top carries the communications antenna as well as 3D stereo cameras. A robot arm on the front of the rover has spectrometers on it for taking measurements of lunar soil. The rover has six wheels in a rocker-bogie configuration similar to that used by NASA rovers such as the Mars rover Curiosity.

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The rover drives off a ramp lowered from the Chang'e-3 lander vehicle. The lander, which does not move after touchdown, carries a plutonium-powered nuclear generator to provide electricity during the two-week lunar night.

In the 1970s, both the Soviet Union and the United States landed wheeled vehicles on the moon. The Soviet Lunokhods were remote-controlled from Earth. Apollo astronauts drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle"“moon car" on the final three flights of the program.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.