Yutu rover

Launch Date Dec. 1, 2013 | 17:30 UT
Launch Site Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan, China
Destination Earth’s Moon
Type Lander
Status Successful
Nation China
Alternate Names Chang'e 3 Lander, 2013-070A, 39458


Travel to the Moon and deliver the Yutu rover to explore the lunar surface.


Chang'e 3 landed in the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) region of the moon on 14 December 2013. Soon after landing, a small rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit in English) was deployed and driven across the airless surface. The successful landing makes China the third nation to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and the second nation to use a robotic rover to explore the lunar surface.

Key Dates

Dec. 1, 2013 | 17:30 UT: Launch

Dec. 6, 2013 | 09:53 UT: Lunar Orbit Insertion

Dec. 14, 2013 | 13:11 UT: Moon Landing

In Depth

Chang'e Lunar Rover Landing Site
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter slewed 54 degrees to the east to snap a dramatic oblique view of the Chang'e 3 site (arrow). Crater in front of lander is 450 meters (about 1,476 feet) in diameter. Image width is 2,900 meters (about 9,500 feet) at the center.

Chang'e 3 was a Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) lunar landing mission designed to study the Moon from its stationary landing platform and with a rover. Chang'e 3 comprised of a Lunar Landing Vehicle (LLV) with a total mass of 3700 - 3800 kg. The LLV consisted of a soft lander and rover, designated Yutu (Jade Rabbit). The lander has a mass of 1200 kg and carried four scientific instruments. The Yutu rover was about 1.5 meters tall and has a mass of 120 kg with a 20 kg payload consisting of four instruments.

Chang'e 3 launched aboard a Changzheng-3B (Long March 3B) rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 1 December 17:30 UT (2 December 1:30 a.m. BJST local time). The spacecraft was inserted into a 100 km circular parking orbit around the Moon on 6 December at 09:53 UT (5:53 p.m. Beijing time) after a 361-second braking maneuver. The LLV orbit was then lowered to a 15 x 100 km orbit. At periapse on 14 December, the LLV fired its thrusters and descended to 100 meters above the surface. It hovered at this altitude to move to a suitable landing site, then descended to 4 meters and cut off its engines to fall to the surface. Chang'e 3 landed in northern Mare Imbrium at 13:11 UT (21:11 BJST) on 14 December. The Yutu rover rolled onto the lunar surface on 14 December at 20:35 UT (15 December 04:35 a.m. BJST).

The Yutu rover was designed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is a six-wheeled vehicle powered by solar cells. Mounted on top of the LLV, it was lowered on a ramp onto the lunar surface after landing. It had a maximum total range of 10 km. Instruments include a stereo camera, ground penetrating radar, visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer, and alpha particle x-ray spectrometer. It also has navigation and hazard avoidance cameras and may have a lunar soil probe. Data was transmitted back to Earth in real time.


Launch Vehicle: Changzheng-3B (Long March 3B)

Spacecraft Mass: 310 pounds (10 kilograms)

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. stereo camera

  2. ground penetrating radar

  3. visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer

  4. alpha particle x-ray spectrometer.

  5. It also had navigation and hazard avoidance cameras and may have had a lunar soil probe.

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Chang’e 3 Lander

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Views Chang'e Lunar Rover Landing Site

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