Chinese rover ‘Jade Rabbit’ drives on far side of the moon

The Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover on the ‘dark side’ of the moon. (China National Space Administration/AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Chinese rover ‘Jade Rabbit’ drives on far side of the moon

  • Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013
  • Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth

BEIJING: A Chinese lunar rover has driven on the far side of the moon, the national space agency announced on Friday, hailing the development as a “big step for the Chinese people.”
The Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover drove onto the moon’s surface from the lander at 10:22pm Thursday (1422 GMT), about 12 hours after the groundbreaking touchdown of the Chang’e-4 probe, the agency said.
The China National Space Administration released a photo taken by the lander showing tracks left by the rover as it departed the spacecraft, though it did not specify how far the rover traveled.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.
Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.
The separation of the rover — which is named after the moon goddess’ pet white rabbit — went smoothly, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar project.
“Although this was one small step for the rover, I think it is one big step for the Chinese people,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, echoing the famous quote by US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon in 1969.
No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface of the far side of the moon, and it is no easy technological feat. Challenges include communicating with the robotic lander as there is no direct “line of sight” for signals.
The photo of the rover was sent via the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) satellite, which was blasted into the moon’s orbit in May to relay data and commands between the lander and Earth.
Chang’e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies — aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons’ far side.
The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said.
Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.
It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
cl/sst