A new timelapse photomosaic shows China's Yutu rover dramatically trundling across the Moon's stark grey terrain in the first week after it rolled all six wheels onto the desolate lunar plains.
Above: This time-lapse color panorama from China's Chang'e-3 lander shows the Yutu rover at two different positions during its trek over the Moon's surface at its landing site from December 15th-18th, 2013. This view was taken from a 360-degree panorama. Credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo.
Our complete time-lapse mosaic (see below) shows Yutu at three different positions trekking around the landing site, and gives a real sense of how it maneuvered around on the first Lunar Day.
The 360-degree panoramic mosaic was created from images captured by the color camera aboard China's Chang'e-3 lander, the country's first spacecraft to successfully soft land on the Moon. The time-lapse mosaic was stitched together by the imaging team of scientists Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo using images just released on a Chinese language website. We integrated the wide screen panorama with additional images of Yutu taken by the lander as it roved around the right side of the mothership during her 1st Lunar Day to create the new timelapse panorama.
This view shows the Yutu rover heading south from the Chang'e 3 landing site about a week after the December 14th, 2013 touchdown at Mare Imbrium. This cropped view was taken from the 360-degree panorama. The extreme ultraviolet camera is at right. Credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo – kenkremer.com.
The first portrait of Yutu was taken shortly after it first drove off the 1,200 kg Chang'e-3 lander on December 15th. The last Yutu position shows her heading off to the south and departing the landing site forever.
Indeed, she's not ever coming back to see the stationary lander again, according to China's Chang'e-3 mission team. Yutu, which translates as 'Jade Rabbit', is on her own from now on. The two robots will work independently for the rest of their robot lives and will never cross paths again.
This view shows the Yutu rover heading south from the Chang'e 3 landing site about a week after the December 14th, 2013m touchdown at Mare Imbrium. This cropped view was taken from the 360-degree panorama. The extreme ultraviolet camera is at righrt. Credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo – kenkremer.com.
Chang'e-3 safely touched down on the Moon at Mare Imbrium near the Bay of Rainbows on December 14th, 2013. Seven hours later, the piggybacked Yutu robot drove off a pair of ramps, onto the Moon and into the history books.
The Chang'e-3 mothership and Yutu rover are now working during their 2nd Lunar Day, having survived the harsh extremes of their first Lunar Night when temperatures plummeted to below minus 180 degrees Celsius, or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit. They have resumed full operation and are conducting research investigations. Each is equipped with four science instruments. All the equipment is functioning well except alas for the color camera used to snap the images for the photomosaics herein.
Photo of Chang'e-3 moon lander emblazoned with Chinese national flag taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover on December 22nd, 2013. Credit: CNSA.
China's official Xinhua new agency reports that the instruments aboard the lander and rover have each collected a large amount of data about the Moon, Earth and celestial objects.