Watch Chang’e 4 land on far side of the moon on January 2, 2019. Things start to heat up at the 4-minute mark and again at 5 minutes. 5,419 single images were combined to create the video. CNSA, CLEP and Doug Ellison
China’s lunar lander Chang’e 4 and Yutu-2 rover celebrated their first anniversary on the moon’s far side earlier this month. On Monday (Jan. 20) the Chinese National Space Administration (CNES) released a ton of new photos, a sampling of which are included here. The lander and rover have completed 13 lunar days on the moon, where a single day lasts 29.5 Earth days.
Yes, that’s more than two weeks of daylight followed by two weeks of night. If you were an astronaut there, the sun would rise and take about week to reach its highest point in the sky and then another week to set. Two weeks later it would rise again. The moon has such a long day because it rotates more than 27 times slower than the Earth. Long days and nights — with no atmosphere or water to soften the blow — means the temperature of the lunar surface varies from 260° F (–127° C) in the daytime to –280° F (–173°) at night.
Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 awoke to their 14th day in Von Kármán Crater located near the moon’s south pole on January 18 and 19, respectively. Both have far exceeded their expected lifetimes of three Earth months with all systems still in good health. Between them they’re bristling with cameras and instruments to photograph lunar features and panoramas, study the chemical composition of moon rocks and soil, carry out radio telescope observations of the sky and determine what’s under the surface using ground-penetrating radar.
Because the probes are located on the moon’s far side, they can’t send data directly back to the Earth but must use an orbiting relay satellite which transmits the data for them. China has grand plans for lunar exploration including the Chang’e 5 sample-return mission that will launch later this year. If successful it would be the first to return lunar material since the 1976, when the Soviet Union’s Lunar 24 mission scooped up six ounces (more than 170 grams) of soil. A small portion of the precious dust was shared with NASA.