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Credit: Beijing Institute of Spacecraft Engineering


Chang’E-3 was the first moon mission managed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to put a robotic rover on the lunar surface. Called ‘Yutu’ (translated as ‘Jade Rabbit’), the rover was deployed on to the lunar surface after the main Chang’E-3 lander autonomously soft-landed some ~ 40 km south of crater, Laplace F, on 14 December 2013. Weighing some 120 kilograms and coming in at 150 centimetres-high approximately, Yutu has four instruments onboard (four different on the lander, too): including a camera to take 3D imagery of the lunar terrain and its geological features, two spectrometers - a VNIS (visible and near-infrared) and APXS (alpha particle and x-ray) - to measure the lunar soil composition and distribution of various elements, and a radar for measuring soil depth and other structural features (e.g. layering etc.,) underneath.

Those instruments onboard the lander during the mission were capable of carrying out further studies in imagery of the terrain, as well as observing earth’s ionosphere and other celestial objects in the clear, lunar sky above (both Yutu and the lander were also capable of ‘looking’ at each other on the surface).

Chang’E-3 marks the first controlled, soft-landing moon mission in under four decades since last visited by the Luna 24, unmanned sample-return mission back in 1976. Future missions are planned (in a reverse-wise, Chang'E mission launch): Chang’E-5 is expected to be launched in 2019 for a sample return mission to the Nearside, while Chang’E-4 is expected to be launched sometime in 2018 on a mission to the Farside of the Moon involving a lander/rover/orbiter: (as of 7 June 2017, the destination is to the southeast sector of Von Karman at 45.5S, 178.0E, which lies in the western sector of the South Pole Aitken Basin). In 2020, a permanent orbiting station is envisioned, in 2023 a sample-return mission to the Farside may occur, while in 2025 and 2027, landing missions at the lunar North and South Poles respectively are possible, too. Chang'E(?) mission numbers for each mission have yet to be announced.

Cameras onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)- currently orbiting the Moon - took close-up images of the Chang’E-3 landing site in late December, and future observations are planned. - JohnMoore2

Additional Information

  • Launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch site in southwest China on 2 December 2013 (1.30 am Beijing local time, 12:30 pm EST on 1 December 2013 EST) atop a Long March 3B rocket.
  • Entered lunar orbit on 6 December 2013.
  • LADEE will be observing the dust and gaseous effects that Chang’E-3 will have on the lunar atmospheric environment.
  • Lander: Overall dry mass = 1200 kilograms. Body rests ~ 0.83 metres above the surface. Landing legs span ~ 5 metres. Powered by solar panels and a 239-Plutonium Dioxide Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.
  • Rover: Overall 120 kilograms in weight (carries a payload mass of 20 kilograms). Six individually-powered wheels (with rocker-bogie suspension). Powered by solar panels (with possible Radioisotope Heater Units). Slope toleration ~ 20 degrees, and capable of driving over obstacles ~ 20 centimetres. Total driving distance – expected up to 10 kilometres.
  • Images below (left group) show the approximate location of the Chang’E-3 landing site compiled by Phil Stooke using LROC imagery and live images taken by a camera onboard Chang’E-3, while (right group) shows a recent December 2013 LROC before and after comparison view.



  • (click on image for larger views)- JohnMoore2
  • Images below
    Left: Annotated, colour-adjusted version of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' panoramic image (seen to the right). The top-most image of the annotated version shows the approximate location markers for each feature seen in the highly-resolved panoramic view, the bottom-left image shows a LROC aerial view of the region, while the bottom right image shows the approximate rover route map, constructed by Phil Stooke.
    Right: Full resolution (4.8 Mbytes), panoramic view from the Chang’E-3 lander - constructed by the team of scientists and engineers of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.



  • (click on images for larger views)- JohnMoore2


  • Images above.
    Left: Approximate rover route map, constructed by Phil Stooke.
    Right: Close-up of the rock (see pink square added in the original route map for location purposes) taken by the Yutu rover that deployed from the Chang’E-3 lander (see also Xiao, L. reference in bibliography). Image colour-adjusted, credit is to CNSA. - JohnMoore2

  • Images below (January 2016 update) of Change'E-3/Yutu route maps. Maps supplied courtesy of Phil Stooke.
    Left: Shows names (with Chinese characters) in reference to local features and names.
    Right: Shows scientific operations (with dates) during Yutu's exploration of the area traversed.



  • (click on images for larger views)- JohnMoore2

  • Image below (May 2016 update) of Change'E-3/Yutu/Lander locations.


  • (click on image for larger view)- JohnMoore2

LROC Articles

(note: while searching on the LROC site, one should try Chang'e 3 and also Chang'e-3 to get all the articles!).

LPOD Articles

APOD Articles