Chang'e 4 wakes and Yutu 2 stretches its solar panels for another day... on the friggin' MOON

Opportunity still maintaining a Martian silence

China’s Chang’e 4 lander and rover combo have awoken from their lunar slumbers after a chilly first night on the far side of the Moon.

The rover, Yutu 2, booted back up at 20:00 CST on 29 January (12:00 UTC). Change’4 followed a day later on 20:39 CST (12:39 UTC). The reason given for the early wake-up of Yutu 2 was to crack open the solar panels to allow excess heat to dissipate from the rover’s relatively small surface area, according to the robot's Weibo account.

The lander and rover both enjoy radioisotope heaters to stop things getting too cold during the lunar night, and Chang’e 4 also had sufficient power to keep its temperature monitor running, recording a decidedly parky minimum temperature of -190 °C.

The rover is currently 18 metres away from the lander, and the pair are chatting away happily to engineers back on Earth as boffins continue the duo’s science programme.

In other trundle-bot news, NASA’s Curiosity rover has snapped its last selfie on Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge after spending more than a year drilling holes into the thing. While scientists continue to study the data returned by the rover, Curiosity has been sent down to a “clay bearing unit” just south of the ridge.

Scientists hope that analysis of the clay minerals found there will give an insight into the ancient lakes that were at least partially responsible for the lower levels of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity’s predecessor, Opportunity, has continued to maintain its silence as engineers cleared up the detritus of a bittersweet 15th landing anniversary party and pondered new ways of getting the thing to wake up.

As well as the current “sweep and beep” approach used since September, where engineers send a command and wait for a response in the form of a beep, the team is attempting a new strategy. The additional commands allow for some unlikely scenarios, where the primary X-band radio has failed, both primary and secondary X-band radios have failed, or the Rover’s internal clock is offset.

Opportunity will be instructed to switch to its backup X-band radio, reset the clock and respond by UHF.

Time is running short for the stricken rover, with the region of Mars where it is located heading into winter, which will bring some very low temperatures that, unless the batteries can be charged and the heaters run, kill the bot for good. ®

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