New Chang’e 3 images from the Moon

View of the Yutu rover on the Moon, taken by the Chang'e 3 lander. Credit:
View of the Yutu rover, taken by the Chang’e 3 lander. Credit:

Here are a couple of new images taken by the Chinese Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover on the Moon. Much better resolution than the first earlier images and nice to finally have some new views from the lunar surface after all these decades! An interesting change from the Mars rovers, which look at a bright, dusty Martian sky, while here there is virtually no atmosphere and perpetual blackness overhead…

View of the Chang'e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit:
View of the Chang’e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit:

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China’s ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover rolls onto Moon’s surface

The Chinese rover Yutu or Jade Rabbit, on the lunar surface. Credit: CNTV/CCTV
The Chinese rover Yutu or “Jade Rabbit,” as photographed by the lander, on the lunar surface. Credit: CNTV/CCTV

After a very successful landing by the Chang’e 3 spacecraft on Saturday, the attached rover, called Yutu or “Jade Rabbit,” detached itself from the lander yesterday, rolling off a ramp and onto the lunar surface at 4:30 am Beijing time.

The landing by a Chinese spacecraft is the first soft landing on the Moon since the manned Apollo missions ended in the 1970s and the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 lander in 1976. Like the launch and landing, the release of the rover was virtually flawless, allowing China to celebrate its continued space exploration achievements in recent years.

The Chang'e 3 lander, as photographed by the rover. Credit: CNTV/CCTV
The Chang’e 3 lander, as photographed by the rover. Credit: CNTV/CCTV

Yutu is a six-wheeled, 140 kg (308 pound) solar-powered rover which will explore the landing area of Sinus Iridum or “Bay of Rainbows.” Compared to the Mars rovers, Yutu is rather small, measuring only about 1.5 metres long (with its solar panels folded) but will be capable of conducting detailed analysis of rocks and soil during its nominal 3-month mission. It even has ground-penetrating radar under its belly which can reach below the surface to a depth of about 30-100 metres (100-330 feet).

The full landing sequence video of Chang’e 3 can be watched here.

China is now only the third country to have landed on the Moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

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Orbiting outpost proposed for far side of the Moon

Artist’s conception of the proposed orbiting outpost near the Moon. Astronauts on board could help direct robotic missions on the lunar surface. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The prospect of when, or even if, NASA astronauts will return to the Moon has been a subject of much debate in recent years. Some experts see it as a necessary stepping stone before future Mars missions. Others see it as a case of “been there, done that.”

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New images show Apollo flags still standing on the Moon

LRO image of Apollo 17 landing site, with flag still standing nearby. Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped to answer a long-standing question about the old Apollo landing sites on the Moon – are any of the flags planted there by the astronauts still standing today? It turns out that yes, almost all of them are.

See for the full article.

Mystery Moon flashes caused by meteorite impacts

Example of a lunar flash, photographed in 1953. Credit: Leon Stuart/Columbia University Department of Astronomy

For hundreds of years, people have seen tiny flashes of light on the surface of the Moon. Very brief, but bright enough to be seen from Earth, these odd flashes still hadn’t been adequately explained up until now. Also known as Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLPs), they’ve been observed on many occasions, but rarely photographed. On Earth, meteorites burning up in the atmosphere can produce similar flashes, but the Moon has no atmosphere for anything to burn up in, so what could be causing them? As it turns out, according to a new study, the answer is still meteorites, but for a slightly different reason…

See Universe Today for the full article.

ASU researchers propose looking for ancient alien artifacts on the Moon

The "Blair Cuspids" photographed by Lunar Orbiter 2 in 1966. Credit: NASA

Two researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have made a rather controversial proposal: have the public and other researchers study the high-resolution photographs of the Moon already being taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), to look foranomalies that may possibly be evidence of artifacts leftover from previous alien visitation. The theory is that if our solar system had been visited in the past, the Moon would have made an ideal base from which to study the Earth. The paper has just been recently published in the journal Acta Astronautica

See Universe Today for the full article.

Yes, Virginia, we went to the Moon

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken the highest resolution photos yet of the old Apollo landing sites on the Moon. Previous ones had already been taken in 2009, but these new photos were taken from a newer, lower orbit, which helped to increase the resolution. You can see the rovers and equipment left behind, and even the paths left by both the rovers and astronauts. More images are here and here.

Apollo 12 landing site. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU
Apollo 12 landing site, wider view. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is the “twin” of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, taking the highest resolution images ever from orbit of the Moon and Mars. There are some differences of course, but both spacecraft are revolutionizing our understanding of these worlds. Tomorrow, the GRAIL spacecraft will be launched to the Moon. These two probes, even more like actual twins, will both orbit the Moon in tandem to study its interior and thermal history.

Will these new images finally satisfy those who insist the moon landings were faked? Probably not. All of the anomalies cited in the photos and videos taken by the astronauts have been found to have prosaic explanations, even if some were not widely known or initially understood (and that is an entire subject in itself). We did go to the moon, and these images are a record of that achievement, even after so many years later.

Juno looks back at home

The spacecraft Juno, now enroute to Jupiter, took a photo looking back at the Earth and Moon as it speeds away. It was about 9.66 million kilometers (6 million miles) away at the time, and will take another five years to get to Jupiter. In the image below, Earth is on the left and the moon is on the right. There have been pictures like this taken by other spacecraft before, but this reminds us again that everything in Earth’s history has occurred on that tiny “pale blue dot” floating in the infinite blackness of space.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On a side note, I’ve been wondering why we always tend to refer to the Moon as just “the moon” when its name is Luna. I mean, we call all of the other planets, moons, etc. by their proper names. Just a random thought!