China's Jade Rabbit Lunar Lander May Be Out of Luck
A month into its planned three-month mission on the moon, China's "Jade Rabbit" lunar rover has run into a potentially serious problem.
Over the weekend, China's state-run Xinhua news service said the rover, known as "Yutu" in Chinese, had experienced a "mechanical control abnormality."
Officials did not say how serious the problem was but by Monday afternoon China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo social media network was flooded with condolences, reports Phys.Org.
China's Chang'e 3 robotic probe touched on Mare Imbrium -- the Sea of Rains -- on Dec. 14, becoming only the third nation in history to pull off a soft lunar landing.
Hours later, Chang'e 3 deployed Jade Rabbit for an independent science mission.
The unspecified mechanical issue, which Xinhua reported was related to "the complicated lunar surface environment," appeared as ground control teams were preparing to put the rover into hibernation to wait out its second lunar night.
A single day on the moon lasts about 28 Earth days, about half the time in sunlight and half in darkness. Daytime temperatures can soar to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Night-time temperatures can plummet to minus-280 degrees Fahrenheit.
"The bad news is, I was supposed to go to sleep this morning, but before I went to sleep, my masters found some mechanical control abnormalities," said an anthropomorphic Jade Rabbit posting on Sina Weibo, reports Phys.Org.
"Some parts of my body won't listen to their commands. Now my masters are hard at work thinking of ways to fix me… Even so, I know that it's possible I won’t be able to endure this night," the post said.
"I originally thought I could hop around up here for three months ... but if this trip is to end prematurely, I'm not afraid. Whether or not they can fix me, I know that my breakdown can provide my masters with a lot of valuable information and experience," the post said.
"I'll tell everyone a little secret," it added. "I'm actually not that sad. I'm just in my own adventure story, and like any protagonist, I encountered a bit of a problem. Goodnight, Earth. Goodnight, humans."