Space & Innovation

China's Yutu Moon Rover Has Died

Since its landing in December 2013, the Chang'e-3 rover has been exploring the lunar surface to prepare the nation for further exploration.

<p>CNSA</p>

China's troubled but beloved Jade Rabbit lunar rover has whirred its last, state media said Wednesday, after it bid humanity farewell on social media.

The rover, designed for a lifespan of a mere three months, surveyed the moon's surface for 31 months, the official Xinhua new service said, overcoming numerous technical problems and design flaws to become a national icon.

RELATED: China's Rover Reveals a Surprisingly Complex Moon

But the machine has stopped operations, Xinhua cited the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense as saying Wednesday.

The rover was part of the Chang'e-3 lunar mission. Millions of Internet users took part in an online contest to select its name, which comes from the pet of a moon goddess in Chinese mythology.

It began its adventure on December 2013, sending back photographs of the lunar surface and gaining huge popularity with Internet users along the way.

WATCH VIDEO: China's Crazy Plan to Mine the Moon

Not long after landing its legend grew after a "mechanical control abnormality" forced it offline, prompting anxiety from its many supporters.

The rover later turned dormant and stopped sending signals during the lunar night, which lasts for two weeks and sees temperatures plummet.

But it made a dramatic recovery, to the delight of its admirers.

RELATED: China's Rover Rolls! Yutu Begins Moon Mission

It was not clear on which day the device finally "retired".

An official media account carried a post written as a first-person message from the plucky rover to its fans on Sunday saying: "This time it really is goodnight.

"There are still many questions I would like answers too, but I'm the rabbit that has seen the most stars!" it added. "The moon says it has prepared a long, long dream for me."

The post also contained a link to "Universal Traveler", a song by French electronica band Air.

It has received nearly 100,000 shares, likes and comments, with one poster promising it "countless carrot pies" according to Xinhua.

Another said: "I don't know why I am so heartbroken. It's just a machine after all."

RELATED: China's Yutu Moon Rover Back From the 'Dead'?

The Chang'e-3 probe's landing was the third such soft-landing in history, and the first of its kind since a Soviet mission nearly four decades ago. It has been a source of national pride.

China sees the space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once-impoverished nation.

By 2018 the country aims to land its Chang'e-4 probe-named for the moon goddess in Chinese mythology-on the far side of the moon.

GALLERY: Epic Views of Apollo's First Moon Rover

42 years after the first moon rover transported the Apollo 15 astronauts over the lunar terrain, here are a selection of NASA photos taken by Apollo 15 commander David Scott and Lunar Module pilot James Irwin during their wheeled 1971 lunar adventure while Alfred Worden, command module pilot, remained in orbit about the moon.

Shown here, after three highly successful EVAs, Scott walks away from the first ever Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), a location where it remains to this day.

(All photos are sourced from NASA's excellent Human Spaceflight Gallery: http://spaceflight1.nasa.gov/gallery/index.html)

An artist's concept of the Apollo 15 Hadley-Apennine landing area showing the two moon-exploring crewmen, Scott and Irwin, driving on the lunar rover.

The lunar rover was attached to the lunar module and lowered to the surface and unfolded by the Apollo surface crew. When packed, the rover took up a volume of only four cubic feet.

Scott and Irwin drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer called "Grover" during a simulation of lunar surface extravehicular activity in Taos, New Mexico.

Scott (right) and Irwin test out the lunar rover before the Apollo 15 mission to the moon at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., in May 1971.

Gover is driven up to the edge of a man-made crater in Cinder Lake crater field in Arizona to simulate the lunar landscape.

On July 31, 1971, the first lunar rover is unpacked during the first surface extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on the moon. The lunar module, "Falcon," is shown here with the rover and lunar module pilot James Irwin.

The lunar rover on the moon's surface.

Irwin photographs Scott on board the lunar rover during an Apollo 15 EVA.

The US flag is unfolded and planted toward the end of the Apollo 15 mission; Irwin salutes.

The rover was an invaluable workhorse during the Apollo 15 mission, boosting the scope of how much of the lunar landscape around the Hadley-Apennine landing site the astronauts could explore.

Scott works at the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the third Apollo 15 EVA.

The rover parked on the edge of Hadley Rille while Scott works.

Irwin stops the lunar rover from sliding downhill during the second Apollo 15 lunar EVA. Both of the rover's rear wheels appear to be off the ground. Scott was working on a fresh crater at the Apennine Front (Hadley Delta Mountain) when the vehicle started to slide down the 20 degree slope. Fortunately, the rover was stopped and the astronauts were able to continue their work.

The lunar module stands alone at the Apollo 15 landing site, lunar rover tracks revealing the paths taken by the two NASA explorers.