Chang’e-3 lands on the Moon, successfully deploys Yutu rover

14 Dec
Yutu drives off Chang'e-3 lander successfully

Yutu drives off Chang’e-3 lander successfully

It’s the first Moon landing in my lifetime, and if you’re under age 37 it’s the first one in your lifetime as well.

On Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 8:11 a.m. EST the robotic Chinese lander Chang’e-3, and it’s rover named Yutu, touched down safely on the lunar surface. This historic landing is the first Moon landing for China, making them only the third nation to safely land a probe on our closest celestial neighbour.

The Yutu rover successfully separated just after 4:00 p.m. EST.

This is the first object to safely land on the Moon since the Soviet robotic mission Luna 24 landed on August 22, 1976.

The last time humans were on the Moon was December 11-14, 1972 during the last of NASA’s Apollo missions, Apollo 17. This also places added historical significance on today’s date – December 14 – as it is both the last time a human was on the Moon in 1972, and today’s first Chinese landing.

Chang’e-3 launched on December 2 and then took about four days to reach lunar orbit. From December 6-14, the orbit was being adjusted in order to setup today’s descent and landing.

Today’s landing, considered one of the biggest challenges of the mission, consisted of approximately 12-minutes of powered descent towards the surface. When the lander was just a couple meters above the surface, the engine shutdown as planned. This allowed the lander to float down safely, but also minimized the amount of dust that would have been kicked up if powered flight continued all the way to the surface.

After landing the vitally important solar panels deployed successfully and began powering the lander and rover.

When Yutu was deployed, it drove forwards onto a small ramp and was the lowered to the surface. All six of it’s wheels then drove off the ramp and onto the lunar surface, leaving clear tracks behind it as it slowly moved along.

The touchdown happened in an area of the Moon known as The Bay of Rainbow.

China’s first two missions to the Moon, Chang’e 1 and 2, were both orbiters. They had no intention of landing. Chang’e-3 was the country’s first attempt at landing.

In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is a goddess that travels to the Moon. Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, is her companion.

The Yutu rover is expected to operate for about three months while the Chang’e-3 lander should operate for about one year on the surface of the Moon.

This article by Harrison Ruess also appeared on Sun News Network.

Looking down towards the lunar surface from Chang'e-3 during descent

Looking down towards the lunar surface from Chang’e-3 during descent

View from Chang'e-3 shortly after touchdown

View from Chang’e-3 shortly after touchdown

Yutu will drive onto the ramp to be lowered to the surface

Yutu will drive onto the ramp to be lowered to the surface

Yutu on its way down to the surface

Yutu on its way down to the surface

Yutu exiting the ramp and onto the surface of the Moon

Yutu exiting the ramp and onto the surface of the Moon

Yutu on the surface of the Moon

Yutu on the surface of the Moon

The control room

The control room

The landing process

The landing process

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