NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image of the moon's surface
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image released on September 6, 2011 shows the Apollo 14 landing site on the moon and paths left by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on both Apollo 14 moon walks. (At the end of the second moon walk, Shepard famously hit two golf balls.) The descent stage of the lunar module Antares is also visible. LRO captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface. NASA says the image brightness and contrast have been altered to highlight surface details. Reuters

New high-definition images of the far side of the Moon have been released by Chinese lunar missions Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover.

The new photographs show the dusty moon terrain full of craters, trails made by the Yutu 2 rover after its departure from the Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover’s cast shadow on the lunar surface. The data collected by the lander and rover will be analyzed, and scientists are expected to publish the result in the succeeding months.

Currently, the Chang’e 4 and Yutu 2 rover are in hibernation which lasts for about two Earth weeks. The Chinese lunar mission to explore the far side of the lunar surface has gone overtime, lasting longer than expected.

Chang’e 4 landed in the 186-kilometer-wide (11 mile-wide) Von Kármán Crater in the Moon’s far side, near its south pole, on Jan. 3.

The lunar mission aims to investigate the geological and chemical differences between the near and far sides of the Moon. Our natural satellite, the Moon, is tidally locked to the Earth, forcing only one side to permanently face the planet.

According to Gizmodo, the crater is believed to be composed of various chemical compounds, including thorium, iron oxide and titanium dioxide, which could provide clues about the origin of the lunar mantle.

The “dark side of the Moon,” another term for the far side of the Moon, does not refer to “dark” as in the absence of light. It is called “dark” because it is unknown as this area had never been seen until Chang’e 4.

Four lunar days and nights (29.5 Earth days) have passed since Chang’e 4 and Yutu 2 rover’s landing. According to Planetary Society, as of April 12, they are back to hibernation again in preparation for its fourth lunar night.

The mission was expected to last for three lunar days, according to So this fourth lunar day is a bonus for the China National Space Administration (CNSA). If the lander and rover survive the fourth lunar night, a fifth lunar day (April 28) of exploration would be possible.

As of today, Yutu 2 rover has traveled a total of 178.9 meters (587.9 feet), based on the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of CNSA, as relayed by Chinese outlet Xinhua. This beat the record of its predecessor, Yutu 1, which accomplished 114 meters traveled distance before it died out in February 2014.

For the span of the fourth lunar day, Yutu 2 rover drove 8 meters for three days, from March 29 to April 1.

The lander and the rover were put on hibernation again to prevent them from being destroyed by the blazing heat of the Sun. Yutu 2 then accomplished another 8 meters of exploration for four days, from April 8 to 12, before going back to sleep as the fifth lunar night of the mission set in.

“There was no initial indication as to why Yutu-2 had covered relatively little ground in day 4, but Chang’e-4 chief designer Sun Zezhou told an audience at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics on 11 April that the rover had been carefully navigating the area in order to approach and analyze specimens with its visible and infrared spectrometer (VNIS), similar to activities it performed during day 3,” Andrew Jones from the Planetary Society said in a report.

CNSA officials reported that the lander and rover are still working as expected.