Landing sites of sample return and rover missions superimposed on lithology (Clementine UVVIS). Red: old lunar highlands. Blue: young lunar highlands. Yellow: lunar maria (high titanium). Cyan: lunar maria (low titanium)

A lunar rover or Moon rover is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of the Moon. The Apollo Program's Lunar Roving Vehicle was driven on the Moon by members of three American crews, Apollo 15, 16, and 17. Other rovers have been partially or fully autonomous robots, such as the Soviet Union's Lunokhods, Chinese Yutus, and the Indian Pragyan. Four countries have had operating rovers on the Moon: the Soviet Union, the United States, China and India. Japan and Greece currently have planned missions.

Past missions

Lunokhod 1

Lunokhod-1 model, Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

Main article: Lunokhod 1

Lunokhod 1 (Луноход) was the first of two polycrystalline-panel-powered robotic lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program after a previous unsuccessful attempt of a launch probe with Lunokhod 0 (No.201) in 1969. The spacecraft which carried Lunokhod 1 was named Luna 17. The spacecraft soft-landed on the Moon in the Sea of Rains in November 1970. Lunokhod was the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on another celestial body. Having worked for 11 months, Lunokhod 1 held the durability record for space rovers for more than one year, until a new record was set by the Mars Exploration Rovers.[citation needed][clarification needed]

Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle

The Apollo 15 Lunar Roving Vehicle on the Moon in 1971

Main article: Lunar Roving Vehicle

The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) was a battery-powered four-wheeled rover used on the Moon during the last three missions of the American Apollo program (15, 16, and 17) during 1971 and 1972. The LRV could carry one or two astronauts, their equipment, and lunar samples. Georg von Tiesenhausen is credited with submitting the original design, before it was sent to Boeing for implementation.

Lunokhod 2

Main article: Lunokhod 2

Lunokhod 2 was the second of two monocrystalline-panel-powered uncrewed lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of the Lunokhod program. The Luna 21 spacecraft landed on the Moon and deployed the second Soviet lunar rover Lunokhod 2 in January 1973. The objectives of the mission were to collect images of the lunar surface, examine ambient light levels to determine the feasibility of astronomical observations from the Moon, perform laser ranging experiments, observe solar X-rays, measure local magnetic fields, and study the soil mechanics of the lunar surface material. Lunokhod 2 was intended to be followed by Lunokhod 3 (No.205) in 1977 but the mission was cancelled.


Yutu rover on lunar surface in 2013

Main article: Yutu (rover)

Yutu is a Chinese lunar rover that launched on 1 December 2013 and landed on 14 December 2013 as part of the Chang'e 3 mission. It is China's first lunar rover, part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program undertaken by China National Space Administration (CNSA).[1] The lunar rover is called Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, a name selected in an online poll.[2]

The rover encountered operational difficulties after the first 14-day lunar night, and was unable to move after the end of the second lunar night, finally on August 3, 2016, it officially stopped sending data and doing its operations.

Failed missions

Pragyan (Chandrayaan-2 rover)

Main articles: Chandrayaan-2 and Pragyan (rover)

Chandrayaan-2 was the second lunar mission by India, consisting of a lunar orbiter, a lander named Vikram, and a rover named Pragyan. The rover weighing 27 kg,[3] had six wheels and was to be operated on solar power.[4] Launched on 22 July 2019, the mission entered lunar orbit on August 20. Pragyan was destroyed along with its lander, Vikram, when it crash-landed on the Moon on 6 September 2019 and never got the chance to deploy.[5][6]


Main article: Emirates Lunar Mission

Rashid was a lunar rover built by MBRSC to be launched onboard Ispace's lander called Hakuto-R. The rover was launched in November 2022, but was destroyed as the lander crash landed in April 2023.[7] It was equipped with two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera to capture small details, and a thermal imaging camera. The rover carried a Langmuir probe, designed to study the Moon's plasma and will attempt to explain why Moon dust is so sticky.[8] The rover was supposed to study the lunar surface, mobility on the Moon’s surface and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles.[9]

SORA-Q (Transformable Lunar Robot)

Main article: ispace (Japanese company)

Takara Tomy, JAXA and Doshisha University made a rover to be launched onboard Ispace's lander called Hakuto-R. It was launched in 2022, but was destroyed as the lander crash landed in April 2023.[10][11][12]

Current missions


Yutu-2 on the Moon

The Chang'e 4 Chinese mission launched on 7 December 2018, and landed and deployed the Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon on 3 January 2019. It is the first rover to operate on the Moon's far side.

In December 2019, Yutu 2 broke the lunar longevity record, previously held by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 1 rover,[13] which operated on the lunar surface for eleven lunar days (321 Earth days) and traversed a total distance of 10.54 km (6.55 mi).[14]

In February 2020, Chinese astronomers reported, for the first time, a high-resolution image of a lunar ejecta sequence, and, as well, direct analysis of its internal architecture. These were based on observations made by the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) on board the Yutu-2 rover while studying the far side of the Moon.[15][16]


Pragyan on the moon

Chandrayaan-3 was launched on 14 July 2023 by the Indian Space Research Organisation in India's second attempt to soft land a rover and a lander on the Moon. This is the first rover to operate near the south pole of the moon. The mission successfully landed at the south pole of the Moon on 23 August 2023, after lander separation from propulsion module took place on 17 August 2023.[17] The Pragyan rover was deployed the same day as landing and has travelled 0.1 km (0.062 mi) since then and put to sleep on 02 September 2023.[18]

Planned missions

Main article: List of rovers on extraterrestrial bodies § Moon


Main article: Smart Lander for Investigating Moon

The SLIM team assessed in the past the inclusion of a small rover in this mission. A preliminary concept considered a rover with two inflatable wheels that would enter—or drop into—the lava tube while deploying miniature communication relay devices along the traverse. Other concepts suggested developing a miniature rover without wheels but able to "hop" along. Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2), a tiny rover developed by JAXA in joint cooperation with Tomy, Sony Group, and Doshisha University, will be mounted on SLIM.[19] SLIM is expected to be launched in August 2023.

Proposed missions

Main article: List of rovers on extraterrestrial bodies § Proposed_rovers


ATHLETE rover concepts with crew habitats models, 2008.

Main article: ATHLETE

NASA's plans for future Moon missions call for rovers that have a far longer range than the Apollo rovers.[20] The All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) is a six-legged robotic lunar rover test-bed under development by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). ATHLETE is a testbed for systems and is designed for use on the Moon.[21] The system is in development along with NASA's Johnson and Ames Centers, Stanford University and Boeing.[22] ATHLETE is designed, for maximum efficiency, to be able to both roll and walk over a wide range of terrains.[21]

Lunar Polar Exploration Mission rover

Main article: Lunar Polar Exploration Mission

The Lunar Polar Exploration Mission is a robotic lunar mission concept by Indian Space Research Organisation and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency that would send a lunar rover and lander to explore the south pole region of the Moon in 2024. The Japanese agency is likely to provide the under-development H3 launch vehicle and the rover, while the Indian agency would be responsible for the lander.


Lunokhod 3

Main article: Lunokhod programme

Lunokhod 3 was built for a Moon landing in 1977 as Luna 25 but never flew to the Moon due to lack of launchers and funding. It remains at the NPO Lavochkin museum.

Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle 4, 5 and 6

They would have been for Apollo 18, 19 and 20. Only the rover for Apollo 18 (LRV-4) was built. After the cancellation of that mission, it was used as spare parts for the previous rovers. [23][24]

Resource Prospector

Main article: Resource Prospector (rover)

Resource Prospector is a cancelled mission concept by NASA of a rover that would have performed a survey expedition on a polar region of the Moon. The rover was to attempt to detect and map the location of volatiles such as hydrogen, oxygen and lunar water which could foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to the Moon, Mars, and other Solar System bodies. The mission concept was still in its pre-formulation stage when it was scrapped in April 2018. The Resource Prospector mission was proposed to be launched in 2022. Its science instruments will be flown on several commercial lander missions contracted with NASA's new Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

See also


  1. ^ "Chang'e 3: The Chinese Rover Mission". AmericaSpace. May 4, 2013.
  2. ^ Ramzy, Austin (26 November 2013). "China to Send 'Jade Rabbit' Rover to the Moon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  3. ^ "ISRO to send first Indian into Space by 2022 as announced by PM, says Dr Jitendra Singh". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  4. ^ Nair, Avinash (31 May 2015). "ISRO to deliver "eyes and ears" of Chandrayaan-2 by 2015-end". The Indian Express. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Chandrayaan - 2 Latest Update". September 7, 2019. Archived from the original on September 8, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Vikram lander located on lunar surface, wasn't a soft landing: Isro. Times of India. 8 September 2019.
  7. ^ Nasir, Sarwat (19 September 2022). "Launch window for UAE Moon mission revealed". The National. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  8. ^ "UAE hopes this tiny lunar rover will discover unexplored parts of the moon". CNN. 24 November 2020.
  9. ^ "UAE sets new ambitious timeline for launch of moon rover". ABC News. 14 April 2021.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Howell (2021-05-27). "Japan will send a transforming robot ball to the moon to test lunar rover tech". Retrieved 2022-10-17.
  11. ^ "Data Acquisition on the Lunar Surface with a Transformable Lunar Robot, Assisting Development of the Crewed Pressurized Rover". JAXA (Press release). 27 May 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  12. ^ "This is the Lunar Excursion Vehicle (LEV-2) which will ride to the Moon on the JAXA SLIM spacecraft in the near future". Twitter. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  13. ^ China's Farside Moon Rover Breaks Lunar Longevity Record. Leonard David, 12 December 2019.
  14. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (December 19, 2016). "Lunokhod 1: 1st Successful Lunar Rover", Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  15. ^ Chang, Kenneth (26 February 2020). "China's Rover Finds Layers of Surprise Under Moon's Far Side - The Chang'e-4 mission, the first to land on the lunar far side, is demonstrating the promise and peril of using ground-penetrating radar in planetary science". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  16. ^ Li, Chunlai; et al. (26 February 2020). "The Moon's farside shallow subsurface structure unveiled by Chang'E-4 Lunar Penetrating Radar". Science Advances. 6 (9): eaay6898. Bibcode:2020SciA....6.6898L. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aay6898. PMC 7043921. PMID 32133404.
  17. ^ "Chandrayaan-3 lander separates from propulsion module: What happens next?". The Indian Express. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  18. ^ "Chandrayaan 3 Highlights | Pragyan rover rolls out successfully near Moon's south pole". 3 September 2023. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  19. ^ Hirano, Daichi (7 October 2022). "Palm-Sized Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2)". JAXA. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  20. ^ "NASA - Lunar Electric Rover".
  21. ^ a b "The ATHLETE Rover". JPL. 2010-02-25. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  22. ^ "The ATHLETE Rover". NASA. 2010-02-25.
  23. ^ "The Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle". NASA. 15 November 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  24. ^ "A Field Guide to American Spacecraft | LRV #4". 2012-05-06. Archived from the original on 2012-05-06. Retrieved 2023-05-24.