You’re going to want to click to get the large versions of these:
This is one of the high quality color photographs coming back from the Chang’e-3 lander to our planet’s favorite (only) satellite. Chang’e-3 performed a soft landing on the Moon on December 14th while many of each eagerly watched the video feeds and tweeted out delight. For me, it was the first soft-landing on the Moon that I’d EVER seen, so that’s something nice. (Though, seeing people would be even cooler). The lander came with a little rover, Yutu, which can be seen in the picture above.
Ken Kramer over at Universe Today made some lovely 360-degree panoramas from these images which you can check out. I particularly like the knitted together screencaps of from a news video. It’s not the cleanest view, but it is very artistic in its own way. But here is the clean one for your scrolling pleasure:
I can just imagine myself hopping around on the surface there, singing “I Was Walking on the Moon One Day” like Gene Cernan and Jack Schmidt did during Apollo 17. We don’t know when people will be back to the lunar surface or even for what purpose. Will there be mining activities? Geological explorations? Astronomical observatories? Permanent bases?
From home, we can still view the Moon in our night sky and in our computer browsers. Moon Mappers is our longest running project here at CosmoQuest, and we still need classifications. So you can’t walk around on the Moon yourself. You can still explore photos of it in exquisite details while marking geological features!
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic in my wish to see people on the Moon. Maybe we’ll bypass it for Mars, focus on the asteroids first, or just dig deeper into some singularity-like intelligence that never leaves the planet. (Okay, I’m hoping it’s not the last one.) But I’m glad to see China making headway, as I’m glad that NASA is also studying the Moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LADEE. We’ve learned some amazing things about our nearest neighbor, such as the presence of water(!) in the soil, making it no longer the dead, desolate world we thought. So let’s keep exploring it, shall we?