An oddly cubed shape object has been photographed by the Chinese Moon Rover Yutu 2, but before you cue the theme of “2001 A Space Odyssey,” let’s take a closer look at what it is – and isn’t that the probe may have found.
During its exploration of the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the Moon, the rover has spotted and photographed a peculiar object on the horizon. In a very blurry image, it appears to be a cube-shaped protrusion in an otherwise relatively featureless landscape.
On a post on social network Weixin, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) referred to it as a “mysterious hut.”
“Was it a home built by aliens after the crash landing?” the post playfully speculates. “Or is it the pioneer spacecraft of the predecessors to explore the Moon?”
The answer is that it is likely neither of those things, but something that we know the Moon has in abundance — rocks. We won’t know for sure, however, until Yutu 2 can close the intervening 80-meter (260-foot) distance to study it up close – a process that will take another two or three months for the slow-moving rover.
That’s partially because the solar-powered rover needs to shut down for the duration of the lunar night, which lasts two weeks, as well as when the Sun is directly overhead, to prevent overheating; and partially because the rover needs to travel slowly, navigating the hazardous, rubble-strewn and crater-pocked lunar terrain.
Even though we will have to wait, there are clues that offer possible hints as to the cube’s identity – namely, a relatively fresh impact crater nearby. This suggests that the object could be a boulder excavated during the impact, a phenomenon that has been previously observed on the Moon.
It’s not the first oddity Yutu 2 has uncovered on the proverbial “dark side of the Moon,” the surface that is perpetually facing away from Earth. In 2019, it came across a peculiar substance described as “gel-like”; that turned out to be lunar rock melted into glass, also due to an impact.
The Moon, which does not have the luxury of Earth’s protecting atmosphere, is continually bombarded by meteors and other space objects.
A closer look at the “mysterious hut” will be able to tell us something about the Moon, even if it’s not the presence of aliens. If it’s a boulder that has been excavated from below the lunar surface, we may be able to learn something about the composition of the Moon underneath the top layer of rock and rubble. So CNSA scientists are definitely keen on getting a closer look.
The rock was spotted during Yutu 2’s 36th day of operations on the Moon since landing on the lunar surface in January 2019.
Originally planned only for a mission lasting a few months, Yutu 2 and spacecraft Chang’e 4 are now closing in on the end of their third year and are still going strong.
What did the Chinese Moon Rover see? A common rock formation, or do you think it is proof of Aliens at work in our very own Solar System? Please reply using the comments below!