The Chinese Chang’e-3 Lander Remains Operational on the Lunar Surface

Chinese Chang'e-3 lander still operational over fours years longer than expected.
Chang’e-3 lander on the surface of the moon captured by the Yutu rover | Image Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences / China National Space Administration / The Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration

The Chang’e-3 lunar lander is still sending data back to Earth over four years longer than expected. The discovery was published on the Twitter account of satellite tracking website UHF-Satcom.com on June 24, 2018.

The Chinese Chang’e-3 lander touched down on the surface of the moon in 2013. It was given a minimum design life of just one year. However over four and a half years later, the lander is still waking up and sending data back to Earth. The lander’s accompanying rover has, however not fared as well. The Yutu (Jade Rabbit) suffered an anomaly after traveling just 114 metres in 2014.

Late last year, Chinese officials confirmed that the only science payload still operational on the Chang’e-3 lander was the Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT). The lack of an atmosphere on the Moon makes it an ideal place for UV astronomy. The LUT is the first and currently only automated UV telescope to ever operate on the surface of the Moon. It has has been monitoring several stars including our own in addition to performing low-galactic-latitude sky surveys. It is unclear if the telescope remains operational.

The Chang’e-4 lander is expected to join its predecessor on the lunar surface later this year. In addition to a number of interesting science payloads, Chinese researchers hope to hatch silkworms and grow thale cress aboard the lander during an ambitious experiment.