China's Yutu-2 rover has beamed back an image from the "dark side" of the Moon, providing a glimpse of the meandering journey it took over the past three years.
Ourspace, the outreach channel of the China National Space Administration, released an image showing the far side of the Moon and the tracks left behind by the Yutu-2 rover. Look closely into the distance, and you’ll see Chang’e 4, the robotic lander that accompanied Yutu-2 to the Moon.
Since making history with the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, 2019, Yutu-2 has traveled more than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) across the lunar surface. As you can see from its track, it’s been a winding journey, but one that’s picked up plenty of scientific insights into this unexplored corner of our natural satellite.
Along with taking some incredible images, the Yutu-2 rover is armed with an array of instruments designed to gather scientific information on the properties of the lunar soil on the far side of the Moon. The rover is also armed with ground-penetrating radar that can gather detailed data on the layers beneath the Moon’s surface.
In one of its more recent ventures, images from the Yutu-2 rover showed translucent spherical glassy beads on top of the lunar soil. The unusual globules are believed to have been formed by an intense impact, most likely an asteroid collision judging by the abundance of craters spotted in the nearby area.
The uncrewed vehicle is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, powered by two foldable solar panels and guided by six wheels. The name Yutu-2 comes from a translation of “Jade Rabbit,” a mythical figure in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese folklore based on dark markings on the Moon said to resemble a rabbit or hare. Legends say the Jade Rabbit was a pet companion of the moon goddess, Chang’e, who the rover’s accompanying robotic lander is named after.
You may also remember Yutu-2 from the story of the unusual cube-shaped object spotted on the lunar surface in December 2021, described as a “mystery house” by Our Space. The observation sparked countless jokes and conspiracy theories, but further investigation by Yutu-2 revealed it was... just a rock. Sorry, no alien outposts this time.