Last month, China’s Yutu-2 rover made a discovery on the far side of the Moon that captured the world’s imagination: a hazy cube-like object in the distance, which China National Space Administration-affiliated outreach blog Our Space playfully described as a “mystery hut.”
It was supposed to take months before Yutu-2 would reach the object and find out what it is. As outlined in a new blog from Our Space, Chinese scientists just couldn’t wait that long and developed new strategies for the rover to traverse the lunar surface faster and get to the “cube” ASAP. Now, Yutu-2 has gotten close enough to see what it is: a rock. Just a regular old Moon rock.
Even the scientists seemed disappointed. The cube appeared as tall as the Arc de Triomphe in the distance, the Our Space blog notes, but “turned out to be very short when approached, and the drivers couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.” Still, they gave it the nickname “Jade Rabbit,” and noted that the bits of rock around it look like the leftovers from a rabbit’s carrot feast.
The discovery, while not as bombastic as discovering an alien complex, wasn’t entirely unexpected. When the “cube” was initially discovered, many speculated that it could be the rocky remnant of a meteor impact, because it appeared next to an impact crater. Now, the next step for Yutu-2 is to get in even closer to analyze the rock and its nearby crater.
The resolution of the mystery of the Moon cube isn’t a total wash, however, as the rover team developed some pretty innovative techniques to get the robot moving across the Moon’s surface faster. In fact, laying that process out makes up the bulk of Our Space’s blog. The blog refers to the new approach as “swaggering” and describes how drivers coaxed Yutu-2 into taking an extra precious step each day, and covering more ground with each movement while navigating tricky craters. The trip north to the rock took more than 30 days, six steps in total, covering nearly 60 meters of lunar surface.