Changing Planet

China’s Moon Rover Starts To Make Tracks

China’s lunar lander snaps a color photo of Yutu- the six-wheeled rover exploring the moon. a day after it touched down. Credit: CNSA / CCTV
China’s lunar lander snaps a color photo of Yutu- the six-wheeled rover exploring the moon one day after it touched down. Credit: CNSA / CCTV

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft performed a  nerve-wracking 12 minute descent and touched down safely on the lunar surface on Saturday, December 14 at 8:11 am EST. Several hours later, a 140-kilogram (300-pound) six-wheeled rover named Jade-Rabbit rolled down a ramp to begin its 3-month mission exploring the lunar rocks and soil.

China joins an elite club of nations–just the US and the old Soviet Union–that have managed to land intact spacecraft on the moon.

As China's first lunar lander made its harrowing descent on Saturday navigation camera snapped this image of the fast approaching cratered surface of the moon.  Credit: Xinhua/CCTV
As China’s first lunar lander made its harrowing descent on Saturday navigation camera snapped this image of the fast approaching cratered surface of the moon. Credit: Xinhua/CCTV

Outfitted with solar panels that the Chinese space agency says successfully opened soon after landing on the moon’s flat lava plains, the SUV-sized lander is now able to generate it’s own power and has begun to beam its first batch over nearly 60 images  back to Earth, with the first hi-def panoramic images of its new desolate home to follow in the next day or two.

Snapshot from live TV broadcast of Lunar Lander Chang'e-3 as seen by the cameras aboard China's first moon rover.  Credit: CNSA / CCTV
Snapshot from live TV broadcast of Lunar Lander Chang’e-3 as seen by the cameras aboard China’s first moon rover. Credit: CNSA / CCTV

The rover’s original landing site wass situated within the basin of the 250-mile-wide (400-kilometer-wide) Sinus Iridium, or Bay of Rainbows, a large flat crater visible in the upper-left area of the full moon as seen from Earth. But the Chinese space agency decided to land the rover one orbit early, a bit to the east over Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains. This unexplored region offers the potential for discovery of interesting geological features, clear driving for the rover, and grand views of steep crater walls.

Screen grab taken from live broadcast of China's Jade-Rabbit rover successfully rolling down the ramp and setting its six wheels on the lunar surface.Credit: CNSA / CCTV
Screen grab taken from live broadcast of China’s Jade-Rabbit rover successfully rolling down the ramp and setting its six wheels on the lunar surface.Credit: CNSA / CCTV

The advanced rover is equipped with four cameras and ground-penetrating radar. It sports a robotic arm outfitted with an alpha particle x-ray spectrometer that is capable of sniffing out the chemical makeup of rocks and soil.

This mission marks China’s first attempt to land on another celestial body. It not only looks to expand our understanding of the moon’s geologic history, but to impress the global community with China’s technological prowess.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Timo

    Greatest Kid`s Meal Deal ever!!!..

  • Tony

    Hmm China must have faked their landing as well since there are no stars in the background in the pics. [/sarcasm]

    Well that ‘was’ one of the points that they made when claiming that USA faked their landing.

  • macumazahn

    Looks like I’m gonna have to learn Mandarin.

  • macumazahn

    @ Tony: *snerk*

  • Engineerscott

    About time someone go up and grab the Helium-3 for fusion reactors.

  • Arjuna

    shadows are lining up correctly in this photo. Though I believe US went to moon, still I like to see someone tell me why shadows did not line up correctly in Apollo photos.

  • Steve S.

    Congratulations to the Chinese. Another step for mankind.

  • Alexander Grayskull

    Looks like Im going to have to learn Mandolin

  • JohnG911

    Good time to send a battlebot to the moon.

  • ed

    Congratulations!

    This is a noteworthy achievement for the Chinese. I hope that they continue in the pursuit of an aggressive space program.

  • Goud

    Congrats to China.
    Now there is a “Made in China” product on the Moon as well 🙂

  • john

    Just announced by China’s official news agency Sumtingnugoingon, China has imposed a “NO FLY ZONE” which extends from the moon to 15 billion light years in all directions. There is no official reaction from Earth at this time.

  • SpyRos

    Congatulations! Fabulous achievement. Brisbane Australia

  • Ken

    It took the Russians to get us into space, maybe the Chinese will get us back on track.

  • ERIC

    Don’t let anyone fool you…they are there to pick up the space
    trash left by Americans and Russians…..they send Rovers to
    my neighborhood every week….they specialize in plastic
    bottles and aluminum cans!!!

  • dano a ugandan-greek man

    let us see whats going up from other peoples. so u can lean more bravo for china.

  • Lehri

    Finally a real landing on moon .. rather fake nasa project :/

  • SAN

    Guess atleast now we can use the rover to track and locate the flag and stuff that US falsely claim that they have put on Moon.

    Great achivement by the way, cheers Chinese. Looks like China is shifting their strategy from copying to innovating.

  • Yijun

    I hope US and China have more cooperation, especially in sciences. I hope the world will spend more money on sciences and less on weapons.

  • Megan

    Grammar error:

    ” now able to generate it’s own power and….”

    should be: “its”

  • alex

    very well? let them play football on the moon)

  • Rootieboy

    For those of you who say the Moon landing was fake here is a view of the Apollo 17 landing site through a reconnaissance orbiter. Keep denying it. It happened. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110908.html

  • Laramie Wright

    Yeah! Now we can buy lunar advertising from china! Those little rover wheels will be burning huge letters into the moon dust, maybe big enough for all earthlings to see! It’s brilliant. China is poised to colonize the moon all by themselves…. every time we buy Chinese or any goods that get advertised, we’ll be participating in the colonization. I won’t hesitate to suggest that the financing for colonies has already begun to trickle in for them.

  • Subramaniam Shanmugam

    This the another contribution to the world from great Socialist China. Socialism is always great.

  • Bil

    PEACE ON EARTH & THE MOON!

  • Philippe Rousset

    Philippe Rousset originally shared:

    Once the Chinese Moon Rover has been driving around for a while I wonder if
    A it will find the Us Lunar Missions debris or
    B look for but never find the debris, not even on the mapped landing zones.

    If B then the US Gov will have to eat many dog’s breakfast.

  • John

    A great achievement. They will soon send a man if they desire. I’m sure the Chinese can develope or borrow the technology needed. They will learn little more than is allready known but it will be a big political and military statement as it was for the USA in 1969.

  • Jarmo

    How far is the rover from US landing sites?

  • theWheel

    I wonder if before the solar panels were deployed the rover was powered by lithium batteries from Hobbyking?

  • EngineerMike

    In the 60’s the United States was focused and motivated with the Space Race with the Russians. We had a vision and goals. I pray that this country regains that same focus and motivation to pursue and establish a new vision to invest in for current and future generations of our great nation. In the 60’s for every dollar we invested in the space program this country got back $17 in spin off and GDP.

  • Pero33

    poor usa children are just thereatened by china, which will in next decades be their master.

  • Mohsin

    Soon India will be sending it’s own rover to the moon, It,s just wait and watch game

  • Heman

    Why the sky is looking dark on the moon surface?

    • The photo exposures are very short and the lunar surface is so bright it easily outshines the stars above. Same effect as on Earth.

  • NS

    Congratulations to China. People there must be as excited as we were in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission landed men on the moon for the first time. Watching President Kennedy’s famous speech and the moon landing still gives me goosebumps. http://youtu.be/9yW2cObTTy8

  • Moonwalker

    The photos supposedly taken by the Chinese moon rover on the supposedly Moon’s surface show very weird things, to the best of my knowledge and investigations, i.e. the Sun’s light direction (seen through the shadows) wouldn’t correspond to the position of the Moon in relation to the Sun at the time the Chinese said it “mooned”; the dust seems coal powder and the rover and the mother ship seemingly don’t have any traces of dust on theirs surfaces; the craters seen in the picture taken seconds before landing seem to belong to the Moon’s Southern Hemisphere and not to the Northern one where China claims it “mooned” one orbit before planned (or announced); the Australian radio tracking station would have recorded alpha numeric data that rebounded in the Stratosphere, something that only could come from the Earth (China???) and not from space; the tracks left by the rover on the Moon’s “dust” shows curves made by two of the wheels while the latter are in a different position and facing another direction. So, I allow myself to believe this isn’t a real “mooning”. It’s up to China to deliver the evidences that the voyage and landing is true. Till then I’ve the same right to distrust in this case that other humans applied or still apply many decades after to distrust the US really landed on the Moon in the 60s and 70s.

  • Mike Redmond

    China are not going to show every thing the moon rover see.s on the moon as like America they will only show what they want you to see, as deal been done with America not to show anything that relates to alien life or previous alien life on the moon.

  • mike

    I thought it was odd at first how dark the regolith was in the first couple of photos; likened to charcoal. Yet in another photo everything is cream colored. I guess the answer to this is that the first ones were taken as the sun was setting. With an atmosphere as the sun sets the longest rays are bent first (reds) then greens, yellows and end ending with blues in the visible spectrum. On the moon there is no atmosphere of course so as the sun sets the light wavelengths are all homogeously dimmed at once giving the black color to the soil…

  • USA Food @ OIl

    Pero33 We produce most of the worlds food and have a supply of Oil under Alaska that makes Opec look like a lake. Don’t you worry about us. Worry about wearing you best rags as you come asking for the US aid you all extend your hands out for.

  • USA Food @ OIl

    Also concern yourselves why China a historically safety reckless country would be using under ground radar? They will probably try to mine it and crack the moon in half. We own the Mineral rights to the moon so keep your mitts off.

  • terra

    ppl, why don’t you question the COLOR of the moon?????? it is not grey! it has colors. NASA was lying all the time, making moon grey, why?? here are good colored chinees and russina pictures comparing to black-white NASA’s
    earth-chronicles dot ru/news/2013-12-18-56281-0-2

  • Fauzudin Md.Zain

    The Chinese should command their Rover to track down any Alien crafts that has landed which some believe the Americans has seen before.

  • len Spyker

    45 years ago I worked for NASA as a tracking station operator commanding the 5 successful soft landing of the SURVEYOR robots (no wheels) that landed in the 1966 to 1968 era.
    Apollo 12 later landed on the moon next to one SURVEYOR and took some bits back home. The robots had TV cameras and little shovels they also had alpha particle scanner even back then. The moon soil looked a lot like the earth. Check out the NASA site. It was all real and not faked . Look up Doppler shift. Len Spyker.

  • Stuplu82

    The reason the sky appears dark on the moon is because it is. There is no atmosphere on the moon, therefore there is no sky as such. The reason stars arent visible is the same as the reason here on earth, the photo has too short an exposure. The shutter on the camera would need to be open for long periods to see stars. As for the colour of the moon in comparison to the US landings, the Chinese have landed in a completely different area and many different areas of the moon are different due to early volcanic activity, early tectonic shifting and meteor impacts. The Earth looks green and blue from the moon but in reality its made of all different colours, rock formations etc. Not everything amazing in life needs to be a conspiracy theory!

  • Enki

    As said by user terra why no words about COLORS ?????
    It’s like if everyone told you during all your life “in Africa there are only white people, since you go there and you discover it was a lie” !

    NASA went to the moon but they have hidden things. We have the proof, they showed us a moon with other colors: why ? Probably they start, themselves the rumors about a fake landing because the truth to hide on the moon was much more important.

    They asked you to speak about everything except that ? I really dont understand how can the media and all people be so blind.

  • Joe

    For your info (about first photo)

    Maybe some of you have questions, what is that white stuff on the ground on the right of the first photo just above http://WWW.NEWS.CN ? the white stuff seems not clear but blur, I have this question for days until I see below youtube video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbGMMiSemW8

    This also explains the white stuff on the ground of the last photo.

  • Joe
  • Joe

    Earth’s photo taken by China’s Moon Rover (Dec. 25, 2013 )

    http://news.sohu.com/20140111/n393337217.shtml

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media