For the First Time in 40 Years, a Robot Is Wandering the Moon

Jade Rabbit.jpg

 

The last rover to be operational on the Moon was the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2, in January of 1973. Since then, we humans have focused most of our robotic exploration efforts on other locations, like Venus and Mars. This should by no means be taken to imply that we know everything there is to know about the Moon. 

 

At 8:11 a.m. EST on Dec. 14, China's "Jade Rabbit" or ("Yutu") rover made a soft touchdown on the Moon. The rover deployed about seven hours later, and the lander snapped this picture of it on the surface.

 

We don't know a lot about China's rover, because China hasn't made all that much public. It has a mass of about 120 kilos, with 20 kilos of payload. That payload consists of stereo panoramic cameras, spectrometers, and ground-penetrating radar. It has some autonomous navigation capability, and may be able to send live video back to Earth, which would be pretty cool.

 

In 2015, China plans to send a second rover to the Moon, and after that, they'll try and get a robotic drilling rig to dig up a sample and send it back to Earth.

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