China’s Yutu-2 rover has returned a photograph from the Moon’s “dark side,” giving a peek at its three-year trip. The China National Space Administration’s outreach channel, Our space, revealed an image of the Moon’s far side and the trails left behind by the Yutu-2 rover. Change 4, the robotic lander that accompanied Yutu-2 to the Moon, can be seen out in the distance.
Yutu-2 has moved more than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) over the lunar surface after making history with the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, 2019. It’s been a convoluted voyage, as you can see from its trail, but one that’s yielded lots of scientific insights concerning this little-known part of our natural satellite. The Yutu-2 rover is equipped with a variety of equipment to collect scientific data on the qualities of lunar soil on the far side of the Moon, in addition to snapping some beautiful photos. The rover also has ground-penetrating radar, which can collect data on the layers under the Moon’s surface in great detail.
Images from the Yutu-2 rover showed translucent spherical glassy beads on top of the lunar dirt in one of its more recent missions. The unique globules are thought to have developed as a result of a powerful impact, most likely an asteroid collision, based on the quantity of craters in the vicinity. The unmanned vehicle is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long, 1 meter (3.3 feet) broad and height, it is propelled by six wheels and fueled by two folding solar panels. Yutu-2 is derived from the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese folklore of the “Jade Rabbit,” a mythological character based on black patterns on the Moon that resemble a rabbit or hare.
Legend has it that the Jade Rabbit was a pet of Chang’e, the moon goddess after whom the rover’s robotic lander is named. You might recall Yutu-2 from the tale of the strange cube-shaped object found on the lunar surface in December 2021, which Our Space labeled as a “mystery home.” The sighting inspired a slew of jokes and conspiracy theories, but Yutu-2’s research confirmed it was nothing more than a pebble. This time, there will be no extraterrestrial outposts.