China's lunar rover 'cube' mystery may be a rock formation
China's lunar rover Yutu-2 was the first spacecraft to manage the landing on the dark side of the Moon back in early 2019, and it has been roaming there ever since. Space exploration aficionados went into a tizzy a few days ago when it sent down a picture of a mysterious cube about 80 meters from its whereabouts which was posted on a dedicated blog and called "mystery cabin on the edge of the sky" (or so the translation went). Needless to say, a swirl of outlandish theories ensued, ranging from level-headed geological analysis to an alien structure.
According to Philip Stooke, Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Geography and Institute for Earth and Space Exploration at the University of Western Ontario, however, China's moon rover cube is just a rock formation at the edge of the crater it currently resides in:
Chinese media are very eager to find all sorts of strange things on the Moon. We tend to think they are all tightly controlled and just repeat the party line, but there is a ton of stuff spinning every news item into a sensational headline…alien bases, millions of tons of priceless metals or unspecified substances, conspiracies about western interests in space and everything else.
So I am not surprised that a rock which, in low resolution images, looks roughly square and is played up as a hut or other type of building. Scientifically, the rock could be interesting and I expect it or nearby rocks on the crater rim to be studied in detail when they reach it early in 2022. But it won’t look like a hut.
The argument behind his stone-cold theory is imagery recorded by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The snapshot of the area implies that what China's lunar rover saw is a rock formation indeed. In any case, Yutu-2 is heading to the "moon hut" as we speak, so we should know whose theory holds water soon enough.