Tag Archives: rover

China’s moon rover springs back to life after being declared lost

By Kelcey Caulder

BEIJING, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — Jade Rabbit, China’s first moon rover, unexpectedly sprung back to life on Thursday, just hours after state-run media said the rover had been declared lost after experiencing mechanical issues in late January.

“Hi, anyone there?” the rover said at 8:49 a.m. local time on Thursday through its account on China’s social networking website Sina Weibo. It came just hours after the state-run China News Service (ECNS) said the rover had been declared lost after it failed to awaken from its dormancy.

Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesman for China’s lunar probe program, also confirmed that Jade Rabbit had come back to life. He said the rover had returned to its normal signal reception on Thursday morning, although experts were still working to determine what had caused the problems and whether they were resolved.

“The rover stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive,” Pei told the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The Jade Rabbit, which is in China known as Yutu, first experienced problems on January 25 and was since unable to function properly. The problems began just as the rover was shutting down for the lunar night, which lasts more than two weeks on Earth and brings surface temperatures down to -180 degrees Celsius (-292 degrees Fahrenheit).

The rover landed in the Sinus Iridum region of the moon on December 14 aboard the unmanned Chang’e-3 spacecraft, marking China’s first soft landing on an extraterrestrial body and the world’s first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades. It also made China the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union to soft-land on the moon.

The series of Chang’e probes are named after a mythical Chinese moon goddess and Yutu refers to her pet. The first spacecraft was launched in October 2007 and maintained a 16-month lunar orbit, more than the expected one-year duration of the probe. The second probe was launched in October 2010 to take high-resolution photographs of Sinus Iridum and collected data for last year’s lunar landing.

China soft-lands its first rover on the moon

BEIJING, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — A Chinese spacecraft landed on the moon on late Saturday, marking the country’s first soft landing on an extraterrestrial body and the world’s first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades, state-run media reported on Sunday.

The unmanned Chang’e-3 spacecraft blasted off from the Xichang satellite launch site in southwest China’s Sichuan Province aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket at 1:30 a.m. local time on Monday. The spacecraft initiated the soft-landing at 9 p.m. China Standard Time (CST) on Saturday, touching down about 11 minutes later in the Sinus Iridum region of the moon.

The Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center said the probe used automated controls to slow down and hover about 100 meters (330 feet) above the lunar surface before using fitted sensors to locate a landing spot. The craft’s four “legs” were equipped with shock absorbers to minimize the impact on landing.

Several hours later, China’s first moon rover separated from the craft and touched the lunar surface at 4:35 a.m. CST Sunday, leaving a deep trace on the loose lunar soil. The 140 kilogram (308 pounds) rover, which is called Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, will now start taking photos of the environment.

Saturday’s landing makes China the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union to soft-land on the moon. During the mission on the surface over the coming three months, the moon rover will work to survey the moon’s structure and substance and scope out natural resources.

The series of Chang’e probes are named after a mythical Chinese moon goddess and Yutu refers to her pet. The first spacecraft was launched in October 2007 and maintained a 16-month lunar orbit, more than the expected one-year duration of the probe. The second probe was launched in October 2010 to take high-resolution photographs of Sinus Iridum and collected data for the lunar landing.

NASA’s Mars rover reaches new grounds

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — NASA on Wednesday announced that its Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the planet’s Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.

On Monday, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater’s rim, after a journey of almost three years. Opportunity was able to drive approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) after climbing out of the Victoria crater, NASA said.

Endeavour crater is more than 25 times wider than Victoria crater, being 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. At Endeavour, scientists expect to see much older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first detected clay minerals that may have formed in an early warmer and wetter period, making Endeavour an intriguing destination.

“NASA is continuing to write remarkable chapters in our nation’s story of exploration with discoveries on Mars and trips to an array of challenging new destinations,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Opportunity’s findings and data from the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will play a key role in making possible future human missions to Mars and other places where humans have not yet been,” he added.

Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the exploration will allow sampling of a rock type the rovers had not seen before. “Clay minerals form in wet conditions so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains.”

NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the summer of 2003. Both completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004 and continued years of extended operations. They made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. 


In search for evidence that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period of time, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on August 12, 2005. Other Mars missions have shown water flowed across the surface in the planet’s history, but scientists have not determined if water remained long enough to provide a habitat for life.

Russian scientists to develop space rover to study the Sun

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (BNO NEWS) — Russian scientists are developing a space rover which will conduct studies of the Sun from a closer distance than ever before, the Russian academy of Sciences announced.

The Institute was cited by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass as saying that, along with the country’s Federal Space Agency, it will be making final decisions on the rover platform and innards before 2012.

The institute explained that the space rover, which is called Interheliozond, is supposed to fly around the Sun along an orbit smaller than that of Mercury, which is the innermost planet in our solar system. The mission is expected to face extreme difficulties, but it is also expected to open up new perspectives.

As part of the project, the institute has developed a set of three telescopes – a coronagraph, a high-energy X-ray telescope, and an optical heliosphere telescope – which in total weigh approximately 40 kilograms (88.18 pounds).

The institute underlined the importance of the weight, as it is key for the delivery of the payload to orbit. New technologies and materials, such as instruments that used to weigh about 50 kilograms (110 pounds), are changing scientific developments, as these components now weigh from five to ten kilograms (11 to 22 pounds). However, scientists are now facing the issue of developing the rover with the appropriate insulation.

“Practically everything the rover telescopes will see will be new to mankind, such as the Sun’s corona observed with the resolution of about 300 kilometers (186 miles),” said Sergei Bogachev, the leading researcher from the institute’s Sun X-ray astronomy laboratory.

“The rover will study polar areas of the Sun for the first time ever,” he added, as cited by Itar-Tass. “We will take a look at the interplanetary magnetic field, which, in the opinion of modern scientists, has the shape of a spiral centered on the Sun. We will also learn the real trajectory of Sun mass ejections towards the Earth.”

The institute noted that the prospective orbit of Interheliozond will be under a hard impact from the Sun, and temperatures will near 600 degrees Celsius (1112 degrees Fahrenheit). Under such temperatures, many metals melt or become flexible, making it of extreme importance to protect key elements of telescopes from the heat.

Furthermore, the conditions will have high levels of radiation and plasma around the rover will be different, as it will have different speed and density of charged particles in the solar wind. These conditions may lead to gradual decay of the majority of known materials.

As a result, the institute underlined the importance of choosing the correct materials and understanding of their response to high temperatures in order for the project to succeed. Bogachev noted that “pioneer projects” such as the Interheliozond presents high risks, but he emphasized that they are also “vital for science.”