No alien structure: since the Chinese moon rover Yutu-2 photographed an unusually angular structure on the lunar horizon in December 2021, this “moon hut” has been puzzled. Now new images provide the solution: The angular structure is a completely normal, rather small boulder, but it resembles the sculpture of a rabbit – and thus the name of the rover, Yutu. This celebrates its third anniversary on the moon today.
Three years ago, the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon – as the first space probe ever. Since then, your Rover Yutu-2 – in German Jadehase 2 – has been exploring the previously hardly explored region near the lunar South Pole. The South Pole Aitken crater depression located there is considered to be of particular geological interest because there are different rocks to the surface than on the front of the moon. In May 2019, Yutu-2 detected lunar mantle rock there for the first time.
Mysterious block on the lunar horizon
In December 2021, the little “Jade Bunny” attracted attention again: He sent a photo to Earth that showed a conspicuously angular block on the lunar horizon. Due to the lack of comparison objects, it was initially difficult to estimate how big this object is. However, it did not seem impossible that it could correspond to the size of a building. The strange structure was quickly given the nickname “moon hut” on the Internet.
Since then, the roving team of the Chinese space agency CNSA has planned a route that will bring Yutu-2 closer to the “moon hut”. “Like everyone else, the rover pilots could hardly wait to solve the riddle,” write Han Shaojin and other scientists from the Yutu-2 team on the mission blog “Our Space”.
Smaller than expected
In order to get close to the object, however, the rover had to drive around a few obstacles and maneuver between several pits. In addition, Yutu-2 was forced to take a break because its solar panels cannot generate electricity on the moonlit night. After about a month of approaching in stages, the time had finally come: Yutu-2 had approached the “moon hut” within ten meters and sent the first panorama images of the object back to earth.
The surprising result: “The structure, which from a distance appeared as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, turned out to be very small when approached,” says the Yutu blog. “The rover pilots were quite disappointed.” The “moon hut” turned out to be a rather small boulder, which was rounder and less angular than it appeared from a distance.
“Moon bunny” instead of an alien structure
However, the footage revealed something else: “A pilot stared at the enlarged image, clapped his hand over his mouth and exclaimed: My God … this is Yutu!”, Han Shaojin and his colleagues report on the blog. In fact, the Brocken was amazingly similar to the sculpture of a hare crouching on the ground – and thus the name giver of the rover Yutu-2.
The rover pilots therefore also named the lunar boulder the Jade Hare. “The scattered stones in front of the jade hare looked like a carrot and the round stone balls behind him resembled his digestive products,” reports the mission blog. Not very seriously, the authors also consider whether this moon bunny is at home on the back of the moon or a mere visitor.
Course record and anniversary for Yutu-2
This trip also marks a milestone for the Rover Yutu-2. Because on the way to the lunar stone hare, he set a new course record: on January 6, 2022, he had driven a total of 1,003.9 meters, cracking the 1,000-meter mark, as the Chinese space agency reports.
Today, January 11, 2022, the little moon rover Jadehase is also celebrating its third anniversary on Earth’s satellite. Yutu-2 is the longest active rover on the lunar surface. The previous record was set by the Soviet rover Lunochod-1, which landed in 1970. The eight-wheeled vehicle had explored the area around its landing site in the lunar Mare Imbrium for eleven months.
Quelle: China National Space Administration (CNSA) , Missionsblog Our Space