China’s lander releases data, high-resolution images of the Moon
The data was collected over a period of 12 lunar "days."
A little more than one year ago, China's Chang'e 4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the Moon. In doing so, it became the first-ever vehicle to make a soft landing on the side of the Moon facing away from Earth.
To mark the one-year anniversary, China released a batch of scientific data and images captured by five scientific payloads aboard the 1.2-ton spacecraft and its small Yutu 2 rover. Since the landing, the rover has driven a little more than 350 meters across the Moon's surface, studying rock formations and taking additional photos. The data was collected over a period of 12 lunar "days," or most of the last year.
The lander itself carried an excellent camera to image its surroundings. Extra sharp with a good color balance, the Terrain Camera was mounted at the top of the lander, with the ability to rotate 360 degrees. Before it died at the end of the first lunar day, this TCAM returned detailed images of the Moon. A helpful Twitter user in France, Techniques Spatiales, converted the camera's imagery into .png files, which can be found here.
The Chang'e 4 spacecraft landed in the South Pole-Aitken basin in the southern hemisphere of the far side of the Moon. The lander and rover have produced the best in situ data of the unexplored far side of the Moon to date, including radar and radiation measurements of the largely unexplored environment.
After this success, China intends to launch the Chang'e 5 mission late this year. It has the ambitious goal of returning as much as 2kg of lunar regolith to Earth, and is scheduled to launch on a Long March 5 rocket near the end of this year. It would be by far the most complicated robotic mission China has ever attempted and if successful would return the first lunar samples to Earth since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976.