China sent its first unmanned lunar probe, the Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” to the moon in 2013 as part of its Chang’e-3, thus becoming the first country after the USA and Russia to land on the Moon. The rover Yutu (translation: Jade Rabbit) reached the Moon’s surface on 14 December 2013 becoming the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976. Its scientific purposes were pretty straightforward: lunar surface topography and geological survey, lunar surface material composition and resource survey, Sun-Earth-Moon space environment detection, and lunar-based astronomical observation.
After a rough start which was considered a failure, Yutu started to deliver time and time again.
“We have for the first time detected multiple subsurface layers (on the moon),” said lead author Xiao Long, professor of the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, attributing these layers to ancient lava flows and the weathering of rocks and boulders into regolith, or loose layers of dust, over the past 3.3 billion years or so.
The rover also discovered a new and intriguing type of rock on the Moon.
“The diversity tells us that the Moon’s upper mantle is much less uniform in composition than Earth’s. And correlating chemistry with age, we can see how the moon’s volcanism changed over time,” said Bradley Joliff of the Washington University of St Louis, the only American partner in the Chinese team.
However, information about how the mission is going remains very limited. Unlike NASA and the European Space Agency, China reveals very little about how their mission is going. To be honest, I’m surprised they even released so many photos but for the time being, let’s enjoy the lovely photos.
Dragos has been working in geology for six years, and loving every minute of it. Now, his more recent focus is on paleoclimate and climatic evolution, though in his spare time, he also dedicates a lot of time to chaos theory and complex systems.