More than two years after China’s lunar rover got off to a rough start on the moon’s surface, the country’s National Space Administration released the stunning high-definition images it took.
On December 14, 2013, Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” became the third unmanned spacecraft to land on the Moon. But within a month, the rover began to have problems preparing for lunar nights and lost its precious solar power supplies.
He stopped moving on January 25, 42 days after a three-month mission.
In mid-February, Chinese authorities faced the fact that Jade Rabbit was going nowhere further, but remarkably he continued to pass on information until the end of October last year.
Despite the fact that it was motionless and transmitting exactly the same observation for nearly 20 months, Jade Rabbit still technically claimed the record for the longest operational period of a rover on the moon, surpassing that of the Soviet rover Lunakhod.
However, while he never quite managed to cover the three square kilometers planned, Jade Rabbit still took charge of the shots. So far, the agency has only released a handful, but there are now hundreds available to the public, and they are in spectacular HD.
Here’s the obligatory photo of Jade Rabbit’s first donut as it separates from the Chang’e lander:
This image is part of the set that you can access through the Scientific and application center for the exploration of the moon and deep space, but the process is frustratingly complex.
Fortunately, Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has earned the gratitude of moon watchers everywhere by doing the hard work. She’s put together hundreds of images into two subsets – worth 35 gigs – to make things easier.
You can find the pictures of Yutu’s panoramic camera here, in this kind of detail:
And some great images of the lander:
And shots of Chang’e 3’s camera here. This set doesn’t seem to show such detailed footage as Yutu’s, but there are a few gems, including this panorama:
And a close-up of Jade Rabbit:
China plans to make another moon landing attempt next year and hopes to bring back samples from the surface.
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