The China National Space Administration has released hundreds of high definition photos taken by the Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover, giving us a better impression of what the lunar surface really looks like.
37 years after the Russians landed the Luna 24 probe onto the moon’s surface, the Chinese successfully soft-landed another probe back in December 2013, and got straight to work taking photos and videos of the surface. Even though the Yutu rover was purposed to carry out a number of objectives such as geological surveying, measuring material composition, astronomical observation, and photography, some of its electrical components failed due to the extremely low temperatures, rendering it immobile after just 42 of the 90 mission days.
Luckily, the photographic and ground penetrating radars still functioned for some time allowing them to take hundreds of images and video, as well as identify at least 9 different rock layers at the landing site. Due to the rover’s inability to retract its solar panels into an insulating state, the internal components slowly failed after being exposed to the harsh cold temperatures, but still managed to remain functional well beyond its 3 month life cycle.
Beyond the many gigabytes of photos collected from the Yutu rover, Chang’e 3’s mission has brought a lot of insight for the CNSA for their Chang’e 4 mission (similar to Chang’e 3) and as a lead up to Chang’e 5.
Here are a few of those photos taken in HD true color quality.
Rover Panoramic Camera
Lander Terrain Camera
The photos are available on the China’s Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration website, but the website is really slow, so Emily Lakdawalla from The Planetary Society has taken the time to download the archive and re-upload them into an easy to download format available via their Amazon Cloud storage page via the links below.
All photos are courtesy Chinese Academy of Sciences / China National Space Administration / The Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration / Emily Lakdawalla