More than two years after China’s lunar rover got away to a wonky start on the surface of the moon, the country’s National Space Administration has released the stunning hi-def pictures it took.
On December 14, 2013, Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” became the third unmanned spacecraft to land on the moon. But within a month, the rover started having some problems preparing for the lunar nights, and was losing its precious solar power supplies.
It stopped moving on January 25, 42 days into a three-month mission.
By mid-February, Chinese officials had to face the fact that Jade Rabbit wasn’t going anywhere further but remarkably, it kept transmitting information until the end of October last year.
Despite the fact it had been immobile and transmitting exactly the same observation for nearly 20 months, Jade Rabbit still technically claimed the record for the longest operational period of a rover on the moon, surpassing that of the Soviet Lunakhod rover.
Nevertheless, while it never quite managed to traverse the three square kilometres intended, Jade Rabbit still took load of snaps. Up until now, the agency has only released a handful, but now there’s hundreds publicly available, and they’re in spectacular HD.
Here’s the obligatory shot of Jade Rabbit’s first donut as it parts company with lander Chang’e:
That picture is part of the set you can access via the Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration, but the process is frustratingly complicated.
Fortunately, Emily Lakdawalla from Planetary Society has earned herself the gratitude of moon-gazers everywhere by doing the hard work. She’s collated hundreds of the images into two subsets – 35 gigs worth – to make it easy.
You can find the shots from Yutu’s panoramic camera here, in this kind of detail:
And some great images of the lander:
And shots from Chang’e 3’s camera here. That set doesn’t seem to show pictures as high in detail as those from Yutu, but there’s some gems, including this panorama:
And a great close up of Jade Rabbit:
China plans on making another attempt at a moon landing next year, and hopes to bring back samples of the surface.