China's lunar rover is on a mission to investigate mystery object on moon
The Chinese lunar rover Yutu 2 is on its way to investigate a cube-shaped object, described as a “mystery hut”, on the far side of the moon.
The mission team of Yutu 2 spotted the object after examining a series of photos taken by the rover, according to Our Space, a science outreach media outlet affiliated with the Chinese space programme.
The mysterious feature, pictured on the horizon and next to a young, large-impact crater, was about 80 metres from Yutu 2, according to the report published on Friday (Dec 3).
“This thing is really interesting. We should go investigate it,” scientists with the mission team were quoted as saying.
The lunar rover, which has an average speed of less than one metre for each Earth day, operates during the lunar day, which lasts for 14 days.
It goes into hibernation for the lunar night, also 14 days. It would take several months for it to reach the object, the report said.
Yutu 2, named for a rabbit in Chinese folklore that lived on the moon, was the first rover to explore the far side of the moon.
China’s space programme is going through a rapid expansion. Ongoing missions include robotic probes exploring the moon and Mars and crewed flights to build its first space station.
Ye Peijian, the chief designer of the country’s first moon probe, Chang’e 1, told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that a Chinese manned landing on the moon was “entirely possible” by 2030.
“I personally think that as long as the technological research for a manned moon landing continues, and as long as the country is determined, it is entirely possible for China to land people on the moon before 2030,” Ye was quoted as saying.
If successful, such a landing by 2030 would come six decades after United States astronauts first set foot on the lunar surface in 1969.
After the moon and Mars, the next target in China’s deep-space exploration could be an asteroid mission, according to Ye, whose team was already working on asteroid research.
China’s progress in space capabilities has unsettled the US, with vice chief of the US Air Force Space Command David Thompson telling a defence forum that China could surpass America to become the leader in space at the end of the decade, posing a “tremendous threat”.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.