China's Yutu moon rover is a six-wheel robot that weighs nearly 310 lbs. (140 kilograms) and is outfitted with navigation and panoramic cameras. The lower front portion of the rover is equipped with hazard-avoidance cameras.
The solar-powered rover is built to hibernate at night and could survive three ultra-cold lunar nights, the equivalent of three Earth months.
Yutu tools on the moon
The Yutu rover carries a robotic arm with an Alpha-Proton X-ray Spectrometer, or APXS.
David Kring, senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, told SPACE.com that the APXS tool could, among other duties, study recent impact crater material that's been tossed out and about, revealing the material below the moon's surface; look at ejected debris in crater rays and/or in secondary craters; and help researchers develop a better model for impact cratering processes.
According to an informal report drafted by Kring, drawing from various Chinese sources, the moon rover carries nearly 45 lbs. (20 kilograms) of gear and has a 6-mile (10 km) range once free of the Chang'e 3 lander.
Yutu also sports a belly-mounted ground penetrating radar.
The rover's radar is believed to have a piercing depth of 100 feet to nearly 330 feet (30 meters to 100 meters). It apparently can operate in two wavelengths, giving it very high resolution at shallow depths to penetrate through the moon's topside called regolith. The other radar wavelengths can probe through the regolith and into the mare basalts.
"The landing site for Chang'e 3 is in an area of basalt flows that are rich in Titanium similar to those returned by the Apollo 11 and 17 missions," saidClive Neal, a leading lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
"These are potentially younger than those returned by Apollo and investigating the compositions of the basalts in this region will add to our knowledge of the evolution of the lunar interior and history of volcanism on the lunar surface," Neal told SPACE.com.
Neal said that the data returned from the ground penetrating radar system on Yutu could allow scientists to estimate the thickness of the mare fill around the landing site, he said, and at least the depth of the lunar regolith.
"I am really looking forward to the data returned by this mission," Neal said.
Lawrence Taylor, director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is a veteran Apollo lunar scientist. He, too, had high praise for China's Chang'e 3 mission.
"We Apollo lunatics salute you and your country in this marvelous event in becoming the third soft-landing nation. May your success, as initiated by your glorious 'Jade Rabbit,' be the catalyst to spur on all lunar exploration and be a bond to unite all people," Taylor said.
Originally published on SPACE.com.
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