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On the far side of the moon, Chinese lander and rover begin 15th lunar day

A rock spotted by China's Yutu 2 moon rover, with the robot's tracks also visible.
A rock spotted by China's Yutu 2 moon rover, with the robot's tracks also visible.
(Image: © CNSA/CLEP)

China's Chang'e 4 mission has entered its 15th lunar day of work on the far side of the moon, with both the Chang'e 4 lander and the Yutu 2 rover still in good condition. 

The mission made a historic, first-ever landing on the lunar far side in January 2019, and its two surface craft are still going strong, despite the moon's harsh radiation and temperature environment.

Yutu 2 awoke on Feb. 17 following sunrise, with a preset plan to continue driving northwest and then southwest across the floor of Von Kármán Crater. Back on Earth, the Yutu 2 drive team has implemented measures such as wearing masks to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Related: Chang'e 4 in pictures: China's mission to the moon's far side

Image of the surface of Von Kármán Crater from Yutu 2, released in February 2020.

Image of the surface of Von Kármán Crater from Yutu 2, released in February 2020. (Image credit: CNSA/CLEP)

The rover has covered a total of 1,204 feet (367 meters) during the mission, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Yutu 2's predecessor, the Chang'e 3 mission's Yutu rover, lost mobility during its second lunar day. (One lunar day is about two Earth weeks long, as is a lunar night.)

The Chang'e 4 lander, meanwhile, resumed its own activities 13 hours after Yutu 2. Science instruments on both spacecraft are working well, the CNSA said.

Communications between teams in China and the awakening spacecraft on the far side of the moon, which never faces the Earth, were facilitated by the Queqiao relay satellite, which operates in a halo orbit around a special point beyond the moon.

Yutu 2 looks back toward the Chang'e 4 lander in July 2019.

Yutu 2 looks back toward the Chang'e 4 lander in July 2019.  (Image credit: CNSA/CLEP)

The solar-powered Chang'e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover had earlier completed their 14th lunar day of science and exploration on Jan. 31, ahead of sunset over the landing area

These two spacecraft spent more than two weeks in a dormant state to protect against temperatures that can drop as low as minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 190 degrees Celsius) during lunar night.

This map by Phil Stooke shows the driving activity of China's Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the moon as of the mission's Day 13.

This map by Phil Stooke shows the driving activity of China's Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the moon as of the mission's Day 13.  (Image credit: Phil Stooke)

Last month, China released a huge batch of Chang'e 4 data, including amazing high-resolution images from the mission. During lunar Day 13, back in December, Yutu 2 spotted and analyzed what could be rocks much younger than their surroundings

While Chang'e 4 continues operations and sets records, China is set to launch another ambitious lunar mission late this year. Chang'e 5, a sample-return mission, will collect around 4 lbs. (2 kilograms) of samples from Oceanus Procellarum on the moon's near side before returning to Earth. 

Follow Andrew Jones at @AJ_FI. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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