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

Goals

Travel to the Moon aboard China’s Chang’e 3 lander and explore the lunar surface.

Accomplishments

Yutu was China’s first successful lunar rove, the third successful Moon rover and the first rover to roll through the lunar dust since the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 in 1973. While the rover became stranded after about a month on the Moon, it continued to transmit science data from the lunar surface for almost three years.

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
Dec. 14, 2013 | 20:35 UT: Yutu Surface Operations
Mid-Jan. 2013: Loss of Movement; Science Data Continues
Dec. 31, 2016: Final Signal

In Depth

Image: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/change-lunar-rover-landing-site

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.

Spacecraft

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 Rover

Earth's Moon News