China’s far-side moon mission has turned its history-making gaze underground.
The Chang’e 4 spacecraft touched down on the floor of the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater on Jan. 2, 2019, becoming the first probe ever to ace a soft landing on the moon’s mysterious far side, which forever points away from Earth.
A rover called Yutu 2 (“Jade Rabbit 2”) rolled off the stationary Chang’e 4 lander just hours after touchdown. These two solar-powered craft have now been taking the measure of their exotic surroundings for more than a year with a variety of science gear, giving us unprecedented views of the lunar far side’s surface.
Those views now extend to the subsurface, thanks to the first published results from Yutu 2’s ground-penetrating radar instrument. In a paper released Wednesday (Feb. 26) in the journal Science Advances, Chang’e 4 scientists revealed the structure of the gray dirt beneath the rover’s wheels, as gleaned from radar data gathered during Yutu 2’s first two lunar days of operation. (Each lunar day is about two Earth weeks long. Yutu 2 and the Chang’e 4 lander hibernate during the brutally cold lunar nights, which also last two weeks apiece.)