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8.1.2 The Moon goddess and the Jade Rabbit

The Chinese sent orbiters to the Moon in 2007 and 2010, and named them Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2, after the Moon goddess of Chinese mythology. They then used Chang’e 3 to deliver a 140 kg robotic rover to the surface in December 2013, which they named Yutu (meaning ‘Jade Rabbit’, named after the Moon goddess’s pet). The lander was equipped with an astronomical telescope to observe distant objects in ultraviolet light (which cannot be done from Earth because of our atmosphere), and the rover had probes and cameras to study the lunar regolith. The Chang’e 3 mission can be seen as a test of the robotic exploration strategy discussed by Ian Crawford in the previous video, but it may also be a precursor to a future Chinese manned landing.

Figure 2 Yutu imaged from the Chang’e 3 lander, 22 December 2013. The landing site is in the northwest of the Mare Imbrium.

The lander and Yutu were shut down during each lunar night, which lasts nearly 15 Earth-days. Yutu awoke to find itself unable to move on the third lunar day (23 Feb), and was scarcely functioning at all on the fourth lunar day. The lander’s astronomical instruments continued to function well. If you want to follow the progress of the mission, try the links below.

China’s next lunar mission, the 'Chang’e 5 Test Mission' was launched in October 2014 on a return trajectory to the Moon (without landing) as an engineering test for the future Chang’e 5 sample return mission.


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