Get an up-close look at China's Chang'e 6 farside moon rover (video)

 A moon lander with a small rover strapped to its side.

A mysterious mini moon rover (circled) was spotted attached to China’s Chang’e 6 lunar lander in photos released shortly before its May 3, 2024 launch. | Credit: CAST

More information has come to light regarding the hitchhiking mini-rover on China’s Chang’e 6 sample-return mission to the moon’s far side.

The little Chang’e 6 rover is named “Jinchan” and weighs roughly 11 pounds (5 kilograms), according to China ‘N Asia Spaceflight.

Carried by Chang’e 6 to the far side of the moon, the tiny vehicle rolled into position and snapped an amazing photo of the lander and its outstretched robotic arm that gathered lunar specimens.

Autonomous and intelligent

In a recent story, the state-run Xinhua news agency said that Jinchan was an autonomous, intelligent mini-robot, developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

“After Chang’e 6 collected the samples on the far side of the moon,” Xinhua reported, “the mini rover autonomously detached from the lander, moved to a suitable position, selected an ideal angle for the photograph and then captured the image.”

photo of a silvery lander on the surface of the moonphoto of a silvery lander on the surface of the moon

photo of a silvery lander on the surface of the moon

Key materials

In prelaunch imagery of the Chang’e 6 hardware, the four-wheeled mini-rover surprised many China space watchers.

A glimmer of information later came from a story via China’s Science Network, which noted the presence of a Chang’e 6 lunar rover.

According to the article, the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (later referred to as the Shanghai Silicate Institute) undertook the development of a number of key materials.

“The large-sized tellurium dioxide crystal developed by the Shanghai Silicate Institute has excellent acoustic and optical properties and is a key material to achieve a large field of view, high spatial and spectral resolution and is used in the infrared imaging spectrometer of the Chang’e 6 lunar rover,” the story explains.

The ultrasonic motor is the ‘helper’ that presses the shutter for the ‘Chang’e Family‘ lunar rover’s infrared imaging spectrometer. Piezoelectric ceramics are the core material of the ultrasonic motor,” the story continues. “Following Chang’e 3, 4 and 5, the wide temperature range and highly stable piezoelectric excitation element developed by Shanghai Silicate Institute was successfully used in the Chang’e 6 ultrasonic motor.”

X user SegerYU shed further light in a recent post (translation via Google):

“The Chang’e 6 lunar rover has solar panels on the other side, and there are cameras on both sides of the rover, so it can take pictures no matter which side it faces. The rover is fully autonomous and can be remotely controlled from the ground.”


— China opens Chang’e 6 return capsule containing samples from moon’s far side (video)

— What happened to China’s Chang’e 6 lander on the moon’s far side?

—  China’s Chang’e 6 mission carried a stone flag to the moon’s far side

Clearly different

The sporty mini-rover is far lighter and clearly different than China’s earlier Yutu 1 and Yutu 2 lunar rovers. Each Yutu has six wheels, and both were loaded to their solar panels with lots of equipment.

China’s Chang’e 3 moon lander deployed Yutu 1 in Mare Imbrium after its December 2013 arrival on the moon’s near side.

Yutu 2’s home turf after deployment by the Chang’e 4 lander in January 2019 is Von Kármán crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin, on the moon’s far side. It is reportedly alive and well and still on the move.

You can get more looks at the Chang’e 6 mini-rover here. And check out these good views of the mission’s return capsule after its June 25 landing on Earth, courtesy of China ‘N Asia Spaceflight.

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