Yutu Moon rover

Yutu Moon rover

Yutu rover on the lunar surface,
photographed by the Chang’e 3 lander. Image source: Wikipedia

Yutu (literally: “Jade Rabbit”) robotic lunar rover was a part of the Chang’e 3, an unmanned lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). It was launched at 17:30 UTC on 1 December 2013, and reached the Moon’s surface on 14 December 2013. The mission marks the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976 (after Luna 24, an uncrewed space mission of the Soviet Union’s Luna programme) and the first rover to operate there since the Soviet Lunokhod 2 ceased operations on 11 May 1973.

The rover encountered operational difficulties toward the end of the second lunar day after surviving and recovering successfully from the first 14-day lunar night.

A lunar day lasts 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes. And this the same time it takes for the Moon to orbit around the Earth. Because the moon is tidally locked with the Earth, that’s the reason why we can see only one side of it.

With respect to the background stars, however, the Moon only takes 27 days and 7 hours for the sky to completely rotate back to its original position (a sidereal moon day).

It was unable to move after the end of the second lunar night, though it continued to gather useful information for some months afterward. In October 2015, Yutu set the record for the longest operational period for a rover on the Moon.

On 31 July 2016, Yutu ceased to operate after a total of 31 months, well beyond its original expected lifespan of three months.

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