NASA snaps a pic of China's Yutu Rover from 93 miles overhead

China's Yutu rover has been spotted by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LRO). The 60-inch wide robot can be seen as a pair of white pixels just east of a 1,500 (450 m) foot impact crater. Thanks to the image, we now know Yutu's exact location.

Chang'e 3 landed on Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) on December 14 — a time when the LRO was not in a position to grab an image.


Ten days later on December 24, it approached the landing site and took a series of shots. The best pic came on December 25th when the satellite was directly above.

NASA tells us more:

The rover is only about 150 cm wide, yet it shows up in the NAC images for two reasons: the solar panels are very effective at reflecting light so the rover shows up as two bright pixels, and the Sun is setting thus the rover casts a distinct shadow (as does the lander). Since the rover is close to the size of a pixel, how can we be sure we are seeing the rover and not a comparably sized boulder? Fortuitously, the NAC acquired a "before" image (M1127248516R) of the landing site, with nearly identical lighting, on 30 June 2013. By comparing the before and after landing site images, the LROC team confirmed the position of the lander and rover, and derived accurate map coordinates for the lander (44.1214°N, 340.4884°E, -2640 meters elevation).


Yutu landed about 200 feet (60 meters) from an impact crater on a thick deposit of volcanic materials.


A large scale wrinkle ridge can be seen cutting across the area. It formed as tectonic stress caused the volcanic layers to buckle and break along faults.

All images: NASA/IROC.


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